Players

Highly popular at each of his nine former clubs, Chris Powell is now looking forward to his 23rd season in professional football. Yet he also wants to project his ideas about the game, and the changes he has witnessed, to a wider audience. Mick Collins talks to the well-travelled left-back

When Chris Powell was named in Sven-Göran Eriksson’s first England team, the London Evening Standard reacted in strident terms. “Chris Who?” it demanded across its back page, seeking a cheap and patronising laugh. So what of the various parties now?

As Federico Bassahun reports, an international striker faces some serious and outlandish accusations

Claudio Pizarro recently completed a permanent move from Chelsea back to Werder Bremen, for his fourth spell at the club since first moving to Europe 11 years ago. However, that was a rare bright moment in a wretched summer for the striker.

FC Twente's new creative midfielder wants to be known just for his football. Jonathan Wilson reports on a reluctant trailblazer

“I have packed,” Nashat Akram said with a smile, “my diplomatic passport.” The joke was apt, and was delivered as a friendly way of ending the conversation, but there was also a tiredness in the Iraq midfielder’s voice as he made it. Nashat understands why the question keeps being asked, and recognises the need to provide some sort of answer, but he is clearly also sick of constantly being asked whether he is an ambassador for Iraqi football.

A new Maradona documentary flatters to deceive. Terry Staunton explains his disappointment

As a minister leads his congregation in a revised football-friendly rendition of the Lord’s Prayer before performing a wedding on the pitch of an Argentine stadium, it’s clear we’ve dropped in on no ordinary place of worship. This is the Church Of Maradona, just as surreal as anything in Sarajevo filmmaker Emir Kusturica’s back pages, but it’s tiny moment of light relief in a disappointing movie.

Adrian Mutu failed a drugs test in 2004 but is still being pursued by Chelsea. Matthew Barker examines the case

Adrian Mutu was in pre-season training with Fiorentina when the news came through. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne had rejected an appeal against a FIFA ruling that the Romanian should pay €17 million (£14.9m) to former employers Chelsea. In a public statement, the player called the punishment “profoundly unjust”, while Viola patron Diego Della Valle talked of arranging a sit-down with Roman Abramovich in order to solve the matter in a more civilised fashion.

Neil Rose looks at a ruling which looks to have given clubs some power back from the players

When Andy Webster used an obscure FIFA rule to buy himself out of his contract with Hearts for a relatively nominal sum and then sign for Wigan, it was seen as a contract-breaker’s charter. But a recent ruling involving Brazilian Matuzalem appears to have restored some balance in the never-ending power struggle between players and clubs.

Amid anger and recriminations, has David Beckham's US "project" failed? Neil Forsyth considers an alternative view

While most British footballers watched Ayia Napa slide sadly away through aero-plane windows before returning to pre-season training, the most famous of all has had a far more demanding month. David Beckham returned to America and a controversy that could bring a premature end to a relationship that always seemed built on artificiality and misjudgement on the player’s part.

How could the best player in the school end up doing DIY while an unknown captained England? Howard Pattison ponders the thin line between international stardom and obscurity

A friend once told me that at school he had been voted the boy most likely to become a professional footballer. We never had opinion polls like that at my school. Most of us never had opinions. But if we had been asked which of our classmates would go on to kick a ball around a field for a living, I can guess who it would have been. Captain of the school team, played with both feet, read the game brilliantly. Perhaps he was a bit on the short side, but he was stocky with it. “A low centre of gravity” they would say now, like Maradona. Had stamina too, what they would call a real box-to-box player. Bryan Robson, perhaps.

Kevin Donnelly had always been jealous of footballers’ parents – until he went to watch his mate’s son play

In 40 years attending football matches, I thought I had experienced everything. That is, until the day I went to a match with the dad of one of the players taking part in a Scottish Premier League game. As a young player who is basically starting out, his son was looking to build on a promising string of results for his team in which he had started all the games.

Phil Town describes the man voted as the world's best player

The Portuguese media were convinced pretty much across the board that Cristiano Ronaldo had his name on the FIFA Player of the Year award. Just for good measure though, sports daily A Bola felt a little push might help and organised an online petition, signed by 123,559 people, which was sent to each of the 207 football associations of the voting countries. “Cristiano Ronaldo in Zürich to be crowned the best in the world,” chanced the same paper on the day of the ceremony.

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