Christopher Samba

Tony Fernandes, Queens Park Rangers facing staggering debt and losses

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Queens Park Rangers in financial trouble? Nobody saw that coming! Oh wait…

Following last year’s exorbitant spending spree with the hopes of keeping QPR in the Premier League, the club has announced staggering financial numbers.

Chief owner Tony Fernandes is faced with a knee-buckling $296 million club debt, increasing from $152 million this same time last year.

Those incredible numbers are reportedly due to a massive $121 million loan from the owners that was injected to help save the club’s Premier League status.

Despite shelling out transfer fees of $20.8 million for Chris Samba and $14.6 million for Loic Remy, the attempt failed and they were unable to stave off relegation.

The wage bill also increased massively (from $97 million to $130 million) during that time, in part thanks to the acquisition of players such as Julio Cesar, Ji-Sung Park, Jose Boswinga, Esteban Granero, and Andy Johnson.

Rangers only reported earnings of $101 million, mostly from Premier League television payouts.

The news will not just have an affect on Fernandes’s wallet; according to the Telegraph, QPR would face a lengthy transfer embargo under the new Financial Fair Play rules if they remain in such massive debt.

In addition, they would reportedly be facing fines up to $83.6 million in addition to a possible embargo.  The Financial Fair Play rules are meant to push clubs to sustain a relatively equal level of income and expenditure.

The situation reeks of the same red flags leading to Portsmouth’s untimely demise a few years back, a nightmare scenario for Pompey that has seen them drop from the Premier League all the way into the dangerous waters of potentially dropping out of the Football League altogether.  Harry Redknapp was also the manager of Portsmouth during the spending spree that ultimately led their plummet down the leagues.

Redknapp has stated that the wage bill could be slashed this summer to get the club more in line with the Financial Fair Play rules.  Many of the high earners at the club have since departed or been loaned out, but high-earners such as Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips remain.

UEFA fail again, order CSKA Moscow to play Champions League game with ‘partial closure’ after racist chanting

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On Wednesday UEFA inexplicably sentenced Russian side CSKA Moscow to play their upcoming Champions League game against Bayern Munich with ‘partial closure’ of the Arena Khimki stadium following the racist abuse of Manchester City’s Yaya Toure last week.

The verdict was released, read the full statement below, after uproar in the soccer world about the continued level of racist abuse in Russia and other Eastern European countries in recent years, with CSKA themselves denying the racist abuse of Toure ever occurred, despite clear audio and video footage showing the incident taking place in Section D behind the goal which has now been closed.

(MORE UEFA opens CSKA racism investigation, Yaya Toure says it’s not enough)

However the sanction imposed by UEFA on CSKA for their game against Bayern on Nov. 27 is laughable, in my opinion CSKA should have been thrown out of the competition. Yes, that would’ve caused uproar and unrest, but racism in soccer isn’t going to be stopped by ‘partial closures’ of stadiums, miniscule fines or getting players to hurriedly pass around a sign that reads “say no to racism” during the prematch anthem.

UEFA has missed a golden chance to set a precedence as to how racists who attend soccer games in Europe and across the world should be punished. Swift and harsh punishment should be the order of the day, and if domestic teams and national teams aren’t allowed to compete in the Champions League, Europa League and other big tournaments, then that should be a big enough punishment to make the clubs whose fans are guilty of such deplorable behavior stand up, take notice and do something to eradicate it.

(MORE CSKA Moscow president Evgeny Giner: ‘Yaya Touré made it up’)

Following the incident at CSKA Moscow, a formal charge was made by UEFA after Toure had complained to the referee during the game that a section of supporters made monkey chants and gestures at the Ivory Coast international during his sides 2-1 win in the Russian capital. Since then, CSKA have denied any racism took place, stating many other excuses and trying to blame the British media for creating a frenzy.

“We are surprised and disappointed by the racism allegations,” CSKA said on their website last week. “In a thorough study of the videotape, we found no racist insults directed at the guests by CSKA fans, and the delegate confirmed this at the end of the match.”

This incident is not an isolated one.

Across Russia in the past few seasons there have been numerous reports of racist abuse against players, Roberto Carlos had bananas thrown at him and racist banners waved about him when playing for Anzhi Makhachkala against Zenit St Petersburg and Krylia Sovetov Samara back in 2011.

In 2012  fans of Lokomotiv Moscow threw bananas at Anzhi defender Christopher Samba, while earlier this year a supporters group for Zenit wrote a statement demanding that the club didn’t sign any black players.

This has gone on long enough, and UEFA missed the perfect chance to do something meaningful in the battle against racism in soccer.

Here is the full statement from UEFA following the decision to punish CSKA for their fans’ behavior:

The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body has handed down sanctions to PFC CSKA Moskva following incidents during their UEFA Champions League home game against Manchester City FC on 23 October.

Charges
• Racist behaviour of CSKA supporters during the above-mentioned match (Article 14 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations).

Decision
• Partial closure of the Arena Khimki, where CSKA play their home games in UEFA competition: specifically, the Control and Disciplinary Body has decided to close sector D of the stadium during the club’s next UEFA competition home match.

CSKA’s next home fixture is scheduled against FC Bayern München in the UEFA Champions League on 27 November in Moscow.

The fight against racism is a high priority for UEFA. The European governing body has a zero tolerance policy towards racism and discrimination on the pitch and in the stands. All forms of racist behaviour are considered serious offences against the disciplinary regulations and are punished with the most severe sanctions. Following the entry into force of the new disciplinary regulations on 1 June, the fight against racist conduct has been stepped up a level – resulting in more severe sanctions to deter any such behaviour.

UEFA say it themselves in the final sentence, as terms such as “more severe sanctions” and “fight against racist conduct has been stepped up” are used.

But is forcing a closure to one small section of a stadium really enough punishment for widespread racist abuse of an opposition player?

I don’t think so. UEFA need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize that by handing out insignificant punishments like this, they’re only further encouraging this awful behavior to take place. Fans aren’t scared of the repercussions of their actions, and they won’t be until tougher sanctions are made.

Europe’s governing body missed the perfect opportunity the make an example of CSKA and the disgusting behavior of a section of their fans.

Done Deal: Transfer market action from August 29

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Every day between now and the end of the European transfer window, we’ll detail every remarkable signing in our Done Deal report. On Thursday, a couple of bigger names moved clubs, perhaps signaling that teams are finally getting down to business as the window begins to close.

• Chelsea completed a deal to take Samuel Eto’o (pictured) to Stamford Bridge from Russian once-superclub Anzhi Makhachkala. The Cameroonian signed a one-year contract. (Chelsea FC)

• Across town, Arsenal finally made a move, bringing Mathieu Flamini from AC Milan on a free transfer. Flamini had been training with the Gunners after his contract in Italy expired at the end of last season. (Arsenal FC)

• Turkish striker Burak Yilmaz has moved from Galatasaray to S.S. Lazio in Serie A. (Gazzetta dello Sport)

• Dinamo Moscow bought three more players from Anzhi Makhachkala: goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov, defender Christopher Samba and winger Alexei Ionov. Dinamo continues to be the biggest buyer of Anzhi players, having already signed three others earlier this month. (R-Sport)

• AS Roma completed two big deals, signing Adem Ljajić from Fiorentina in a deal officially worth €11 million and up to €4 million additional conditional bonuses (AS Roma) and selling Erik Lamela to Tottenham Hotspur for €30 million and up to €5 million in bonus fees (AS Roma).

• Morten Gamst Pedersen, at Blackburn Rovers since their days in the Premier League, moved to Kardemir Karabükspor in the Turkish Süper Lig. (BBC Sport)

Five worst EPL signings this season

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Okay, so this is one those end of season awards that, as a player, you do not want to receive.

With so much money spent last summer, plenty of Premier League sides splashed the cash with varying degrees of success.

Manchester United spent almost $40 million on Robin van Persie and that paid off, big time. But other clubs took similar gambles and well, Sir Alex Ferguson ended up looking like a genius, once again.

So with the 2012-13 season in the books, shall we take a look at which players underperformed, weren’t worth the hype and proved to be pretty bad buys for their sides? Oh, go on then. Here are five of… well, not the best.

Christopher Samba (Queens Park Rangers)

Arriving to aid Queens Park Rangers survival bid, Samba hampered it. The towering Congolese center back was brought in for $19 million from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala on wages in excess of $145,000 a week. Needless to say those figures look pretty stupid now. In the past Samba held Blackburn’s porous defense together but after moving to Russia for bucket loads of cash, he admittedly felt the differences in fitness levels when returning to the EPL. Two costly mistakes against Fulham and Twitter rants with fans further cemented his status as one of the worst buys of the season.

Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur)

Perhaps a little harsh on the Belgian, but after his $23 million transfer from Fulham, Spurs fans would have expected a lot more from him. Dembele has been hampered by injuries but when he was in the team he flattered to deceive, just two goals in 40 games tells the story. Usually his passing is efficient and sharp but it was so sloppy and wasteful. He will need to step things up big time to get back into Spurs staring lineup in midfield.

Marko Marin (Chelsea)

Well, not really sure why Chelsea bought Marin. But then again, we can say that about plenty of their signings. Yes the 24-year-old German winger arrived for a pretty small fee for someone once described as “the German Messi” however just 10 appearances and one goal to show for his efforts this season, suggests his future lies elsewhere. The likes of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Victor Moses have jumped ahead of Marin. Can the tricky winger get back into the Chelsea side under a new manager?

Jack Rodwell (Manchester City)

Perhaps one of the reasons why Roberto Mancini ended up losing his job, as the front office staff were rumored as trying to bring more homegrown English players into the squad without the Italian managers permission. Their was pressure on Mancini to sign such players, and so City signed Rodwell from Everton for a fee that could rise to $23 million. He scored two goals on the final day of the season against Norwich, his first for the club, after being injured from October to January. However the England international did little to suggest he will threaten the City regulars for their starting spots.

Danny Graham (Sunderland)

Switched Swansea for Sunderland during the January transfer window for $8 million. And not a lot has happened since. Well, apart from being berated by pretty much every Sunderland supporter at the Stadium of Light. Yes, he hasn’t become a bad player overnight. However Graham’s confidence levels are at an all-time low. The striker is from Newcastle (which immediately didn’t win him many friends with the Sunderland fans) and decided a move back to the North-East would be a good idea. Not so much. 11 EPL appearances and zero goals later, Sunderland could be hoping to offload Graham this summer.

Redknapp admits QPR are relegated

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Harry Redknapp’s an optimistic guy, but even the QPR manager admits that his side’s dreams of a miraculous escape from relegation are over after a 2-0 home defeat today by fellow Premier League strugglers, Stoke City.

“It looks in tatters doesn’t it? But we’ve got to try to win a game or two. We’ve got to go to Reading next week and try to win. We’ve got to keep going,” Redknapp told the BBC.

QPR are ten points behind fourth-bottom Aston Villa with four games to play. “It looks almost impossible,” he added. In the unlikely event that Villa beat Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday, both QPR and the bottom club, Reading, will officially be playing second-level soccer next season. Reading host QPR a week tomorrow.

Reading and Wigan also lost today, so all three clubs in the Premier League danger area tasted defeat.

Redknapp, formerly in charge of West Ham, Portsmouth and Tottenham and a rumored England managerial candidate not so long ago, doesn’t exactly sound  thrilled with the caliber of the roster he inherited from Mark Hughes last November. “People say this team will come straight back up – that’s rubbish. There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said, adding that he would not quit: “What am I going to do, play golf every day?”

Seen as a savior after turning round Tottenham in 2008-09 and keeping little Portsmouth in the Premier League, Redknapp has won only four of his 21 league games in charge. And then there was the tabloid story about QPR’s players treating a warm-weather training trip to Dubai as if it was a bachelor party. QPR did beat west London neighbors Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on January 2. But in truth, any fanciful notions the club had about mounting an escape for the ages were gone when Wigan scored from a last-minute free kick to snatch a 1-1 draw two weeks ago. That was the sort of demoralizing blow that is a momentum-killer.

What now for a club with a very recent history of acute financial and ownership turmoil? Their owner since 2011, Malaysian low-cost airline entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, is a rich man. And he might have to be. Fernandes said this week that a recent $23m loan the club have taken out is to be put towards a new stadium, not to ease any short-term money problems.

But QPR are a reported $140m in debt and there is no doubt that the wage bill is far beyond what a club with an aging 18,000-capacity home could normally support, despite all that lovely broadcast rights lucre that keeps flowing the league’s way in ever-increasing amounts.

Wanting the club to become a serious Premier League presence after their first year in the top-flight since 1995-96 ended in a panicky last-day survival, Fernandes threw money at the roster. Despite his best intentions, he ultimately fostered the conditions for the same sort of managerial instability, profligate spending and ridiculous player turnover that has previously proved catastrophic for other Icarus-like Premier League clubs who chased the dream down the years.

According to soccerbase.com, QPR have signed 28 players plus two loanees since the summer of 2011. Well-known, expensive names among them, with a decent pedigree: Ji-Sung Park, Bobby Zamora, Christopher Samba, Loic Remy. Former West Ham and England goalkeeper Rob Green arrived last July – then was replaced after three games when QPR suddenly signed the Brazil international and Champions League winner, Julio Cesar, from Inter Milan.

We’ll wait to see just how disastrous QPR’s lavish spending will prove for the club. Much may depend on how easy it is to offload the high-earning, low-achieving veterans in the close-season. Meanwhile, little Southampton, Norwich and Swansea are all going to stay up – comfortably and without breaking the bank. And how many of their players could the average fan name?