Of all the things for which AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi probably need apologize, this one surely rates low on the list.
This is a man, after all, who has been dogged by scandal for years. He has been convicted for tax fraud and accused of bribery, false accounting, collusion, tax evasion, embezzlement and (perhaps most odious) engaging in prostitution with a minor.
Feel free to go take a shower. We’ll wait …
So calling someone a “rotten apple” seems like a misdemeanor infraction in the court of public opinion. Especially when so many people would be inclined to agree.
And yet, here we are. Berlusconi has apologized for saying just that about Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli, who is surely printing up his bitingly ironic “rotten apple” t-shirt at this very moment for later display upon his next goal.
What Berlusconi said last week: “The name of Balotelli never came into my thoughts. He is a rotten apple and could infect every group where he goes, even Milan.”
More important to the transfer goings-on, the AC Milan owner attached his subsequent apology to another denial, knocking down the hard-to-kill rumors that City’s man-child might find his way back to Italy and to the San Siro.
What Berlusconi just told Sky Italia:
What I said was based on the fact that I feel positive people are useful in the changing room. I was not referring to Balotelli and I apologize if it is was taken as a slur against him. … Could he still come to Milan? No one from my club has held any talks with him, and neither [AC Milan vice president] Adriano Galliani nor I has identified him as a transfer target.”
Italy took a 1-0 lead over Azerbaijan through the in-form Eder in the 11th minute, but the true leg-work (see what I did there) came from bite-sized midfielder Marco Verratti.
The PSG playmaker pinged a beautiful long ball over the top of the Azerbaijan defense that fell right at the feet of Eder, who let the ball settle itself and touched home confidently past Kamran Arhayev for a 1-0 lead.
The goal is the second of Eder’s national career in just five caps, having scored on debut against Bulgaria back in March. He has six goals in seven matches for Sampdoria so far this Serie A season.
Italy needs three points in this match to ensure qualification to Euro 2016. A win would guarantee them a place in the field, while anything less would mean there is work to do in the final match on Tuesday against Norway.
Later in the match, Stephan El Shaarawy gave Italy a 2-1 lead just before halftime, his second career international goal and his first since September of 2012 which came in his third career start.
As soon as Brendan Rodgers was dismissed by Liverpool on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp’s name was tossed around as the likely successor to the then-vacant Liverpool managerial position.
However, according to Klopp’s representatve Marc Kosicke, Liverpool did not make contact with the German until after Rodgers had been officially let go.
“The first call from Liverpool came after the dismissal as coach of Rodgers,” Kosicke told Bild. “Before Liverpool there were naturally quite a few inquiries. But Jurgen always asked me not to take it any further.”
Club management was less committal than Klopp’s rep, but did say they had their eye on the German for some time. “We have learned to keep certain matters confidential. We had a meeting recently with Jurgen that he has talked about and I don’t want to talk too much about these conversations. But we have thought about him for a long time and everyone who knows football knows he is an outstanding manager.”
It’s relatively hard to believe Liverpool would have canned Rodgers without knowing for sure that a top-level target such as Klopp or Carlo Ancelotti were on board to replace him. It also would mean discussions of the contract terms and logistics would have moved at lightning speed, with just four days between the Rodgers dismissal and Klopp’s official unveiling.