Di Stefano still under care


Soccer Digest: Doctors plan to perform a heart bypass operation on Alfredo Di Stefano today if his condition remains stable, reports Simon Burnton.

The 79-year-old former Real Madrid player was admitted to hospital after a heart attack on Saturday but surgery was postponed on Monday because he had suffered a fever.

"In the last 24 hours, and though the prognosis remains serious, there has been an improvement in his circulation," a statement from Valencia's La Fe hospital said. "If the current clinical stability continues, the planned bypass operation will take place tomorrow."

Doctors had considered performing an angioplasty, in which small balloons are inflated in a diseased artery to improve blood flow, but ultimately decided a bypass was necessary because of Di Stefano's age and past medical problems, including diabetes and arteriosclerosis, a hardening of blood vessels.

Di Stefano, Real's honorary president and record goalscorer, was initially admitted to hospital in the Mediterranean coastal town of Sagunto after suffering chest pains early on Saturday before being transferred.

Di Stefano has assumed legendary status in Spain having ended his career there, and forming a famous striking partnership at Real Madrid with Ferenc Puskas.

He scored 23 goals in 31 games for the country, the third he represented in competitive internationals.

Born of Italian parents in Buenos Aires, he scored seven goals in as many games for Argentina in 1947 and also played for Colombia.

* Guardian Service

Home truths for Larsson

 Henrik Larsson will quit Barcelona to return to his native Sweden at the end of the current season.

The former Celtic striker decided not to take the option of an extra year at the Nou Camp after finding it hard to win a first-team place since moving to the club from the Scottish Premier League side in 2004.

The Swedish international now hopes to continue his career in his homeland. "Although I am definitely coming home after the World Cup (next summer), I am fully focused on my job in Barcelona," said the 34-year-old. "I expect to play for two more years."

Pandiani for Spanish reign

The Birmingham striker Walter Pandiani is close to sealing a move to the Spanish club Espanyol. It is thought a £1 million fee has been agreed by the two clubs, with the 29-year-old Uruguayan set to sign a reported two-and-a-half-year contract.

Since his loan move from Deportivo La Coruna was made permanent with a £3 million deal last summer Pandiani has scored just once in 17 appearances for Birmingham this season.

De la Cruz thinks big

Aston Villa midfielder Ulises de la Cruz has confirmed his desire to leave the club. The 33-year-old is anxious to maintain his place in Ecuador's national squad with the World Cup finals just six months away but has seen his chances of first-team football diminish at Villa recently.

"I have loved my time at Aston Villa, but now I feel it is the right time for me to leave," de la Cruz said. "I just need to be playing first-team football."

In brief . . .

Diego Maradona (45) has turned down an offer from Argentinian fourth division side Excursionistas to play for them for the final stages of the Apertura tournament, which consists of 10 games . . Laurent Fournier has been dismissed as coach of French Ligue 1 side Paris St Germain and replaced by former Sochaux manager Guy Lacombe.