Everton defender Baines unaware of Manchester United interest

Everton defender Leighton Baines has insisted that he was unaware of any interest from Manchester United for his signature during the summer transfer window.

The left-back was widely reported to be a target for the Red Devils as they searched for a long-term successor for Patrice Evra.

Sir Alex Ferguson eventually turned to Vitesse full-back Alexandre Buttner but Baines says he knew of no contact from the Red Devils.

“People were asking me and yet I didn’t know anything,” he told reporters. “It was getting mentioned that often that I was getting puzzled by it and yet I’d heard nothing.

“As far as I knew, there was not a great deal in it.”

Baines claimed that he was not the type of player to push for a move to a bigger club but did not deny that he had ambitions of winning trophies and playing football on a continental and international stage.

The 27-year-old argued that Everton had proved that they had the ability to win trophies, however, having come close to FA Cup triumphs in previous years.

“I’ve never been one to rock the boat,” he continued. “I appreciate the position I’m in in life and I love what I do. At the same time you do have to have that ambition because it doesn’t last long and before you know it it’ll be over.

“The ambition for Everton is to finish as high as we can and if we can build on what we’ve done so far we have a chance of getting back towards European football.

“The main thing in football at club level is the Champions League which is always going to be an aim and if you can do that it strengthens your chances at international level as well.

“That’s one of the main ambitions and obviously to win a trophy at some point. We lost in a cup final a few years ago [the 2009 FA Cup final to Chelsea] and lost in a semi-final to Liverpool [in the FA Cup last season] so we know it’s not beyond us.”

The England international, who is part of the Three Lions squad for the upcoming World Cup 2014 qualifiers, was encouraged by the way that the Toffees had not only added to their squad this summer but retained their key players.

“Over the last few seasons, we’ve tended to lose one of our assets each summer, whether it be Joleon [Lescott], Mikel Arteta when he left, Steven Pienaar,” he explained.

“This season we’ve not only managed to keep the squad together but added really good players.”

Montolivo: I'm at AC Milan to replace Pirlo

Riccardo Montolivo is determined to make an impact at AC Milan and aims to emulate Andrea Pirlo at the San Siro outfit.

The latter left the Rossoneri for Juventus in the summer of 2011 after a 10-year spell at the club, and the former Fiorentina man feels it is up to him to make the Milan fans forgot about the illustrious playmaker.

“Whether I’m here to replace Pirlo? Yes that’s what I’m here for,” Montolivo was quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“It’s useless to pretend like I don’t hear about the comparisons with Pirlo. But it’s better to demonstrate on the pitch that the critics are wrong, than do it by just talking.”

The midfielder then went on to stress that he is not a trequartista, and added that his versatility has occasionally hindered him.

“Let’s put an end to this discussion: I’m not a trequartista. I’m not a No.10. I want to be remembered as a complete midfielder who knew how to defend, lead and attack.

“It’s an advantage to be a versatile player, but on the other hand it’s a reason why people only consider me as half a player. I’ve paid dearly for my adaptability to play different roles: regista, mezz’ala, trequartista.”

Montolivo is currently sidelined with a muscular problem.

Van der Wiel: PSG can become as big as Real Madrid

Gregory van der Wiel feels that Paris Saint-Germain have the potential to become one of the biggest clubs in Europe and challenge the likes of Real Madrid and other top teams.

The Netherlands international signed a four-year deal with the Ligue 1 outfit on Monday to complete his transfer from Ajax, and is full of ambition following his move to the French capital.

“Paris Saint-Germain can become as big a club as Real Madrid. They want to make it to the absolute top, win the Ligue 1 title and compete for top honours in Europe,” Van der Wiel stated to Algemeen Dagblad.

“I am very pleased to be part of this project. They are very ambitious and want to win trophies. I was looking for a new challenge and we can achieve something unique here.

“And it’s obviously fantastic to play alongside a star like Zlatan Ibrahimovic.”

Van der Wiel was also linked with a move to Newcastle United this summer, but the right back has stressed that a move to the Premier League side was never an option.

“I really wanted to play for a club in a big city. I don’t know how serious they were, but I don’t see myself living in the middle of nowhere in Newcastle.

“I am used to Amsterdam and really enjoy living in a big city. I have been in Paris for only three days or so, but I can already say that it’s quit similar to Amsterdam.”

Van der Wiel could make his official PSG debut in the home game against Toulouse on September 13.

Why Sydney FC's historic Del Piero signing could have the 'Beckham effect' on Australian football

By Vince Rugari

The landmark signing of Alessandro Del Piero by Sydney FC could be the A-League’s ‘Beckham moment’ – but only if Australian football can correctly channel his buzz into genuine growth and development.

That is the belief held by experts in both the United States and Australia, including founding general manager of the Chicago Fire, Peter Wilt, and former head of corporate and public affairs for Football Federation Australia, Bonita Mersiades.

David Beckham’s move to the LA Galaxy in 2007 changed the face of Major League Soccer and the entire sport in the United States forever, bolstering attendance numbers, broadcast deals, sponsorship, jersey sales, on-field quality, facilities, global credibility and general interest in the game.

Like the US, football is far from the most popular sport down under – rugby league, Australian rules football and rugby union all benefit from a much greater public profile – despite high participation figures.

But Juventus legend Del Piero could be a gamechanger in the mould of Beckham, believes Wilt.

“I think the interest from what I’ve been seeing [between Beckham’s MLS arrival and Del Piero’s A-League move] is similar,” he told Goal.com.

“I think there are a number of parallels. In both cases, there had been big names before – great international players that had come, but no one of the level of Beckham or Del Piero.

“It’s going to transcend the football crowd.”

Can the game in Australia harness the benefits Del Piero can bring to the league?

After committing to a two-year deal worth a reported AU$4 million, Sydney FC chief executive Tony Pignata – who, with the assistance of agent Lou Sticca and the backing of club owner David Traktovenko, convinced Del Piero to move down under – will be counting on the revered Italian to do the same.

Il Pinturicchio may not find himself the focus of gossip magazines and celebrity culture to the extent that Beckham is, but his worldwide popularity cannot be understated.

“This is a timely and unexpected boost for the A-League competition to help take Australian football to the next level,” Mersiades told Goal.com.

However, the A-League has been here before – Del Piero, now 37, is not the only big name to have been drawn to the fledgling competition.

The signing by Sydney FC of former Manchester United star Dwight Yorke for their inaugural season was the league’s first major coup, and other famous faces – Juninho, Robbie Fowler and Harry Kewell to name a few – have followed in his footsteps.

But these marquee players have all come and gone without leaving any form of lasting legacy like Beckham has in the US.

Mersiades warned: “While Del Piero will provide a major stimulus to the A-League and Sydney FC, his signing of itself is not the ‘magic bullet’ for football development in Australia.”

“FFA needs to harness the community interest that this signing will generate, delivered to them by Sydney FC and Tony Pignata.

“Football in Australia will not be able to match the public profile and corporate sponsorship of the other three football codes until there is continuing development and growth of the game across all fronts.”

For a city of 4.5 million people, Sydney’s crowds in particular have dropped to embarrassing levels since the Yorke days. 

Under pragmatic former manager Vitezslav Lavicka, the Sky Blues saw attendance figures plummet to an average of just 7656 in season 2010-11 before a rise to 9628 last term.

They also face new competition with the introduction of the FFA-funded Western Sydney Wanderers to feed an insatiable demand for football on the outskirts of the city.

“Sydney’s crowds are going to increase significantly, but so will the away attendances,” Wilt said.

“All of a sudden, Sydney FC is the match to watch throughout the league.

“Sydney FC could not have made a better signing to compete with the Wanderers in their first season.”

However, the advantages of the Del Piero signing need to be shared league-wide following a tumultuous 12 months in Australian football.

“All of a sudden, Sydney FC is the match to watch throughout the league.”

Peter Wilt

A former colleague of Mersiades’, FFA chief executive Ben Buckley announced in August he will leave his post as soon as the A-League’s new broadcast deal is negotiated. 

To say that Buckley has been an unpopular figure throughout his nearly six-year term is a gross understatement.

Expansion in the A-League has failed abysmally under his watch, with new clubs North Queensland and Gold Coast United both folding, while club owners have staged a near-mutiny over funding allocations and broken promises.

With Del Piero as the new face of the league, the forthcoming TV rights contract should enjoy an increase courtesy of the Italian, which could iron out these problems and lay the foundation for growth under incoming CEO David Gallop, formerly of the National Rugby League.

And if Del Piero’s stint in Sydney goes off without a hitch, then at the very least he will open doors for other big-name players to play in Australia.

“The whole soccer world will be keeping an eye on this experience he has,” Wilt said.

“To me the most important aspect of this signing isn’t the next two years of Del Piero. It’s this – is this a one off, or does it lead to other players of this caliber making similar moves? 

“There have been 50 designated player signings since David Beckham came. The fact is it opened up the doors and made players consider the MLS that in the past had not.”

– With Paddy Higgs

Ronaldo does not want to leave Real Madrid, says Florentino Perez

Cristiano Ronaldo - Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid

Real Madrid chairman Florentino Perez has claimed that Cristiano Ronaldo does not want to leave the Spanish giants, and that he is unhappy for other reasons.

The Portuguese star refused to celebrate either of his two goals in Los Blancos‘ 3-0 victory over Granada on Sunday, saying he was “sad” with a “professional issue” at the club.

“If he wanted to leave he’d have said so when the transfer window was still open,” the 65 year-old told Marca

“There are other reasons behind it.”

Ronaldo himself took to Twitter to dispel rumours that his dismay was due to a desire for a new contract.

“That I am feeling sad and have expressed this sadness has created a huge stir,” he wrote on the social networking site.

“I am accused of wanting more money, but one day it will be shown that this is not the case,” he added.