Football: Bosman's big day

European football
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The Independent Online
Johan Cruyff, sacked as Barcelona's coach nearly a year ago, returns to the city today to take charge of a Europe XI playing in the Jean Marc Bosman benefit match. Looking after the opposing World XI in the Olympic Stadium will be the former Real Madrid great Alfredo di Stefano and the ex-Brazilian midfielder Socrates.

Cruyff, who led Barcelona during one of the most successful periods in the club's history, will team up with his fellow Dutchmen Ronald Koeman and his son Jordi Cruyff. Completing the Barcelona connection are the present club favourites Vitor Baia and Hristo Stoichkov.

Manchester United's Eric Cantona is set to play alongside his fellow Frenchman Christian Karembeu, the Sampdoria player who is expected to move to either Barcelona or their arch-rivals Real Madrid at the end of the season. The Rest of the World outfit will also call upon several players based in Spain, where there have been no first division games this weekend because of this week's World Cup qualifier with Yugoslavia.

Argentina's goalkeeper "El Mono" Montoya, who has helped turn around Extremadura's season, and the veteran Uruguayan striker Ruben Sosa of Logrones, team up with Espanyol's Mauricio Pochettino.

Diego Maradona, one of the founder members of the International Soccer Players Union which organised the match, is expected to head a group of famous names watching from the stands, although he may yet play.

It was Bosman's long court battle that brought down the barriers between European Union countries and paved the way for free transfers for players out of contract. While hundreds of players have benefited from the changes, Bosman has gained little financially.

The All-Star match, however, has been difficult to stage, with Spain the latest country to oppose it. Spain has been inundated with foreign players since the Bosman decision and the Spanish federation, which claims the country's national side has been damaged by the change, threatened to boycott the event.

A compromise was reached but limited publicity means the huge stadium is likely to be far from full and spectators will have to work hard to distinguish the pitch markings from those left by an American football game due to be played earlier.