Petkovic to take Lazio legal action – lawyer

The coach was fired from his position at the Stadio Olimpico after agreeing to take the Switzerland role in the summer, much to the ire of his legal representative

Vladimir Petkovic is set to take legal action against Lazio over his sacking on Saturday, according to his lawyer.

The Bosnian announced in December that he would leave the capital club upon the expiry of his contract to take charge of Switzerland’s national team.

However, Lazio argued the 50-year-old’s negotiations with the Swiss football federation violated his contract and, after much speculation, he was replaced at the Biancocelesti helm by former coach Edy Reja this weekend.

Petkovic’s legal representative, Paco D’Onofrio, believes the club’s reasoning was “unjust” and plans to take the case to the courts.

“We received notice of the sacking for just cause,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “We’ll challenge the decision in the relevant legal arenas, because we consider it profoundly unjust.

“The statement released by Lazio is unique, as it doesn’t actually indicate the rule he is supposed to have broken during negotiations with the Swiss football federation.

“President of the Italian Football Coach Association, Renzo Ulivieri, also stated this week that Petkovic did not violate any regulation.

“No rule forbids a coach from reaching an agreement with others when his contract is due to expire. Besides, Petkovic signed for a national team and not a club rival of Lazio.”

Meanwhile, Reja is set to return to action in the Lazio hotseat at home to Inter on Monday.

Watch out, Milan: Chelsea chasing unsettled Balotelli

The striker’s agent, Mino Raiola, alerted the Blues to his client’s availability and they are weighing up their options for a potential summer bid

EXCLUSIVE
Paul Clennam

Chelsea are keeping tabs on Mario Balotelli’s availability as his rocky relationship with AC Milan continues to deteriorate.

Balotelli is increasingly unhappy at San Siro following a nightmare first half of the season which has left the Rossoneri in 13th place in Serie A, 27 points behind leaders Juventus.

THE VIEW FROM ITALY

Federico Casetti | Goal Italy

AC Milan’s terrible domestic season so far is pushing Balotelli closer to the exit door.

However, this scenario seems very unlikely to be played out in January, for many reasons. First of all, Balotelli’s market value is currently pretty low and AC Milan are not able to ask for more than €25-30m.

Also, AC Milan and Chelsea are both in the Champions League, so a possible move during the winter transfer window would end Balotelli’s season in Europe.

It is true that president Silvio Berlusconi does not like the forward and his behaviour but he is also aware that the player should be kept at least until after the World Cup. If he performs well in Brazil, he would demand a higher fee and AC Milan could try to engineer a possible Gareth Bale-like transfer.

The former Manchester City striker is known to be unimpressed with the lack of investment in the squad since he joined for around €22 million in January of last year, even though Kaka was brought back from Real Madrid during the summer and Keisuke Honda and Adil Rami have been recruited this winter.

The striker’s agent, Mino Raiola, has alerted clubs to his client’s situation as they explore the player’s options – and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, keen on bolstering his striker options during January, has asked to be kept informed of the situation.

The Blues were keen on making a move for Wayne Rooney during the summer only to be met with resistance from Manchester United, while they have also been linked with a move for Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain in recent days – though Mourinho played down talk of a deal for the Argentine to reporters on Friday.

And despite claims of a falling out between Mourinho and Balotelli during their time at Inter, the Portuguese remains a big fan of the Italy international.

The Blues will likely have to sell to buy this winter given their €59m loss over the most recent financial year but could be tempted into a move should they sell either, or both, of David Luiz and Juan Mata.

However, despite Balotelli’s unhappiness and some ill-feeling towards the Italy international among the club’s board, a January move appears unlikely.

Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has never been enamoured by Balotelli’s behaviour and would sanction a sale, a decision driven at least in part by the delicate political situation at the Giuseppe Meazza following the appointment of Berlusconi’s daughter, Barbara, to the club’s board.

Adriano Galliani, who looked set to step down as CEO at the end of November before performing a U-turn and agreeing to share general manager duties with Babara Berlusconi, was responsible for bringing the 23-year-old to Italy 12 months ago.

Galliani’s power at Milan is at an all-time low, however, and the Berlusconis are pushing for a sale in the right conditions.

But such conditions appear unlikely in the coming weeks. Balotelli is the biggest star in the Milan ranks and the club would want a mammoth transfer fee for the Italy striker.

Given his below-par displays this season, however, the Italian giants would be unable to demand anything more than €25-30m for his services at this moment in time and any sale for that amount would likely cause uproar among an already dissatisfied fanbase.

As such, the club are prepared to wait until after the World Cup in the hope that Balotelli impresses for his country in a bid to drive up their asking price.

'Barca never an option for Courtois'

The goalkeeper’s father has insisted his son never intended to swap Atletico Madrid and Chelsea for the Catalans, who look set to sign Marc-Andre ter Stegen

Thibaut Courtois never intended to swap Atletico Madrid and Chelsea for Barcelona, according to the in-demand goalkeeper’s father.

The shot-stopper has been key to the Rojiblancos’ title charge and was for a long time linked with a switch from Stamford Bridge – where he is being loaned out for the third successive season to the Vicente Calderon – to Camp Nou.

Amid reports that the Catalans have decided to pursue Borussia Monchengladbach star Marc-Andre ter Stegen as Victor Valdes’ replacement this summer, Thierry Courtois has insisted only Chelsea and Atletico have been on his son’s mind this season.

“Thibaut isn’t disappointed Barca have moved for Ter Stegen,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “Barca were never an option.

“Thibaut is on loan at Atletico until June 30. Only two clubs are important to him – Chelsea and Atletico Madrid – but we’ll obviously discuss his future with Chelsea first.”

With Courtois’ worldwide profile set to rocket further this summer should he star at World Cup 2014 for Belgium, his father suggested he will only stay with Jose Mourinho’s side next campaign if he is given Petr Cech’s spot in the first team.

“There will be no talks with Chelsea over the next few days to discuss Courtois’ future,” he added. “The only thing they know is that he wants to be first-choice next season, wherever he plays.”

Honda: I can help Milan out of rut

The midfielder described his move from CSKA Moscow to the Rossoneri as “a dream come true” and says he is willing to pitch in wherever he is needed

Keisuke Honda believes that he can bring a lot to AC Milan and help them rediscover their fine form which saw them finish third in Serie A last season.

The Japan international arrived in Italy on Saturday after signing with the Italian giants following the expiration his contract with Russian side CSKA Moscow.

He is poised to make his debut for the Rossoneri – who sit a disappointing 13th in the Italian top flight – against Sassuolo on January 12 and the midfielder is hopeful he can make a difference to Massimiliano Allegri’s ailing side.

“I’m happy to be here and I’m very excited,” Honda, 27, told Milan’s official website.

“I’m ready to play. I’m looking forward to meeting my new team-mates. I think I can give a lot, something more to the team.

“I’ve been waiting here for this for a long time. It’s a dream come true, AC Milan has always been a legendary club for me, I followed them as a child.

“Football is my life and I hope to play well. I can play in any position and I want to score as well as create goals. I want to play in attack but it doesn’t matter where.”

Milan return to Serie A action on Monday when Atalanta visit San Siro, but Honda – who is set to have his medical on Sunday – will not feature in the match.

Competition killers: Bayern's Lewandowski deal leaves Bundesliga butchered

The Polish striker has signed a deal to leave Dortmund in the summer and, in the process, ensured that die Roten’s only real challengers are far inferior

COMMENT
By Enis Koylu

It’s an old adage in the Bundesliga that Bayern Munich will try to kill off the competition by signing their best players. And, treading along the path taken last summer by Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski will ditch Borussia Dortmund for Bavaria.

The Poland star’s move had been a long time coming; having stalled on contract talks as long ago as 2012 he was expected to seal his dream transfer last summer and would have done were it not for Gotze. BVB held on to Lewandowski, knowing that they’d be lost without him.

In the last five months, they have barely been able to keep pace with the Bavarians, but now have lost another of their best players to their hated rivals. Before the start of the season, they needed a minor miracle. Now, they need the red sea to part.
 
And despite all that, they remain the most realistic challengers to Bayern, even without Lewandowski.

Schalke’s insistence on retaining Jens Keller as coach and the swathe of clubs circling for Julian Draxler is preventing them from realising the potential they undoubtedly have, given their bona fide star power in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and the indisputable talent of Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka.

Leverkusen, meanwhile, are closest to Bayern in the Bundesliga table but have some way to go before they become genuine title contenders. An efficient, workmanlike outfit, capable of producing big performances, their form before the winter break was a stark indication of their lack of depth.

The truth is, despite all the excitement and recent growth of the Bundesliga as a spectacle, no club realistically has the finances and prestige to challenge Bayern in the long term.

Sure, Dortmund spent big in the summer of 2012, but that was money earned from Gotze’s surprise sale and the Champions League run. Lewandowski’s Bosman move robs them of the opportunity to repeat the former and their shaky form this term casts serious doubt on their ability to beat the best in Europe once more.

No, BVB have little hope of competing with Bayern for years to come. It took time to transform Lewandowski into the striker who famously scored four goals against Real Madrid. Even if they break the bank, with moves for Jackson Martinez and Diego Costa mooted, their squad is still threadbare, not large enough to challenge Bayern, as the last six weeks before the winter break showed.

So, the chances are Bayern will continue to dominate the Bundesliga for years to come, barring a collapse internally. Towards the end of last season, when Bayern and Dortmund were thrashing teams at will, the Bavarians’ president Uli Hoeness spoke of his fear of a “Spanish situation” developing in Germany, with two teams miles ahead of the rest.

Jurgen Klopp responded enigmatically. “I fear a situation like Scotland with only one team. Next year, we will see the Bayern team and say: ‘Oops!’. Hoeness will not have been right about ‘Spanish conditions’.” He knew that Bayern had all but signed Gotze by then and taking Lewandowski is another nail in the league’s coffin.

There is the wider question of whether the Poland striker will even get a game at the Allianz Arena. Guardiola has always been a vocal admirer of Mario Mandzukic, his current No.9, and has experimented with both Thomas Muller and Gotze as unorthodox centre-forwards.

Giovane Elber has already warned Lewandowski that a regular starting place is far from a guarantee. “It’s always a risk for a striker to join Bayern. It’s quite difficult when Guardiola plays without a traditional No.9.”

If, as the Brazilian fears, the 25-year-old has trouble breaking into the team, that would be saddest indictment of the new-found imbalance in German football.

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