Europe: Valencia climb down over Koeman's exiles

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Valencia have backtracked on, or "clarified" depending on the viewpoint, Ronald Koeman's exiling of David Albelda, Santiago Cañizares and Miguel Angulo. The Dutch coach, who is struggling to impose himself at the Mestalla, said last week the trio would no longer feature in his plans. Cañizares and Albelda promptly asked the club to pay up their contracts so they can seek transfers.

"They haven't been separated from the squad, or sacked," insisted Juan Bautista Soler, the club president. Aware of the players' transfer value, he added: "They simply haven't been selected. It is a technical decision taken by Koeman. No one has said they will not be recalled to the side again. I hope they will return to play for the club."

Valencia, who are seventh, will not play again until 6 January as La Liga is in its winter break, but an absence of matches offers no guarantee of security for coaches. Serie A has paused for winter but relegation-haunted Cagliari nevertheless made their second change of the campaign, firing Nedo Sonetti. He was the seventh managerial casualty of the season. Palermo, Empoli, Livorno, Reggina and Siena have have also changed coaches.

In the Eredivisie, which is still playing, Ajax have slipped from first to third after surprisingly taking one point from matches at struggling Excelsior and at home to Twente over Christmas. Feyenoord, who took six points from their programme, now lead with PSV two points adrift and Ajax a point further behind.

Winter standings

* FRANCE (returns 12 Jan)

1. Lyons 39 pts; 2. Nancy 35

* GERMANY (returns 1 Feb)

1. Bayern 36; 2. Werder 36

* ITALY (returns 12 Jan)

1. Inter 43; 2. Roma 36

* SPAIN (returns 6 Jan)

1. Real Madrid 41; 2. Bara 34