All in the game


Taxi fare of the week.This one’s epic, in a fantastic kind of way. According to Mario Balotelli’s agent Mino Raiola, the player had to visit London recently for a meeting with him in the home of Fulham manager Martin Jol, another of Raiola’s clients.

“Jol saw a cab pull up outside, but Balotelli didn’t climb out – he arrived behind the taxi, driving one of his cars, an £80,000 Maserati GT,” reported the Mirror.

Yes, Balotelli paid a taxi driver to lead him to Jol’s London house – from Manchester. And then asked him to wait “before escorting him on the 200-mile return journey north”.

The Mirror reckoned the return fare would have cost £800, for which, it has to be said, you’d buy a Sat Nav that would probably cook your dinner too.

The taxi drivers of Manchester will hope he never makes the purchase.

Barton all-a-twitter over Samuel

Warring Words of the Week: Daily Mail journalist Martin Samuel v Joey Barton.

“Any legal-eagles out there know if he can get away with this,” Barton asked on Twitter after a rather quirky Samuel column that went under the heading of ‘Gay hero? Surely there’s only one man to herald football’s watershed moment . . . step forward Joey Barton’.

“Could just one footballer please come out and be gay, so everybody can be really cool about it and the sport can get on with its life,” he wrote. “Here’s a thought. Joey Barton continues his quest for intellectual and social respectability. Why not come out as gay?”

The logic escaped Barton (he wasn’t alone, it has to be said), and he was a bit puzzled too by Samuel’s suggestion that the Marseille player’s recently acquired and highly wacky French accent means “he’s probably halfway there”.

Sensibly enough, the Daily Mail put the “sorry we are unable to accept comments for legal reasons” line under the column, but Barton, as is his wont, took to Twitter to have his say about the journalist he calls Jim Royle.

The column was, he said, “disgusting”, “shocking” and sounded “slightly bigoted and homophobic to me”, adding: “Can’t see the missus being happy about this piece.” (Surprisingly, ‘missus’ wasn’t in capital letters).

“I’ve put a call in to colleagues of Martin’s asking him to call me and explain his piece and his homophobia in general,” he said. That’s one chat you’d love to hear.

Quotes of the week

"Joe Royle sent me a text saying keeping us up would be like turning water into wine or feeding the 5,000 or something. I  have never read the Bible, but he meant it would be a miracle.” Harry (3:16) Redknapp

“I have four more years on my contract so hopefully I can win many more things – the Premier League would be amazing. The Capital One Cup and the Community Shield also.”  Fernando Torres. Two of those trophies, you’d imagine, are not top of Roman Abramovich’s wish list.

“If we got that number of penalty kicks there would be an inquiry in the House of Commons.” Alex Ferguson (in no way at all trying to influence the referee before yesterday’s game) on the generosity of officials to Manchester City.

“I like Messi a lot and I can recognise myself in him. Actually, it is like a mirror image of me.”  Brazilian wonder-kid Lucas Moura tries to dampen expectations ahead of his move to Paris Saint-Germain in January.

“To fix the rut they’ll need to take two steps backwards, to take one step forward.” Paul Merson on Sky Sports News last week, as heard by a befuddled Football 365 reader.

In numbers

800,000That’s how many pounds Didier Drogba spent on the personalised rings he presented to his former Chelsea team-mates in honour of their Champions League win last season. Mind you, he earns £193,000 a week at Shanghai Shenhua, so they’ll be paid for in a month and a bit

Dutch man ponies up for a gift horse

It is, as we know, the thought that counts, and you can be sure FC Twente’s Leroy Fer meant well when he bought his girlfriend a very special gift at an auction. She, alas, was unable to accept it, living, as she does, in an apartment block.

The pressie? A €27,000 horse called Django.

(If Leroy received a euro for every time the “looking a gift horse in the mouth” line was used about this yarn, he’d get his money back on Django.)

Not just a super sub, Hernandez stops crime and induces labour

Javier Hernandez has had quite an impact on Manchester United’s season so far, but according to “Mexico City top cop Jorge Carlos Martinez”, as quoted by The Sun, it’s nothing to the impact he’s having on his home country.

When Hernandez plays “crimes like car jacking, muggings and robberies go down”, said Martinez, “it seems even the criminals want to take time off to see our hero play”.

Intriguingly, The Sun also revealed that “more pregnant women get excited and go into labour when the goal-grabbing striker pulls on a red shirt”, but for a country whose population has risen 211 per cent in the last 50 years, the news that “the birth rates go up” when he plays is less positive.

Perhaps with that in mind, Alex Ferguson left him on the bench for the Manchester derby yesterday.

Doing his bit for the planet.

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