Noughts, niggles and net returns

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The Independent Football

If money is the root of all evil, then purists should look away for the next nine months as the game's biggest cash cow proves that European football is the land of milk and honey. The Champions' League, the world's most successful (i.e. rich) competition, begins on Tuesday.

If money is the root of all evil, then purists should look away for the next nine months as the game's biggest cash cow proves that European football is the land of milk and honey. The Champions' League, the world's most successful (i.e. rich) competition, begins on Tuesday.

Bayer Leverkusen ended last season with nothing after losing the German title to Bayern Munich on goal difference. Now there are big, fat zeros everywhere ahead of their Group A opener with Spartak Moscow.

First there is the issue of the defender Jens Nowotny, the subject of a £31m bid by Milan this week. Money is not a problem for Bayer - they are backed by the pharmaceutical giant of the same name - but their 22,000-seat BayArenais too modest a stage for those who seek glamour.

"Nowotny is the top earner in the Bundesliga," moaned the club's general manager, Rainer Calmund, "and if he stays here he will never have to work again. We won't allow him to leave, because we couldn't replace him."

Bayer are already having to replace their coach, Christophe Daum, who has been poached by the Fatherland itself. Daum will take over as Germany's national coach from the interim boss, Rudi Völler, in June 2001. Dapper Daum - a kind of Teutonic George Graham - has just signed a six-year contract with the RWE fashion chain to wear their suits as he strolls about the touchline, which will net him £360,000.

Still, Daum has not let the Gordon Gekko look go to his heart. He donated £80,000 to a charity for victims of last year's Turkish earthquake.

 

Real Madrid have an addiction. It paid off in silverware last May, but despite the holders' promise that the £40m acquisition of Luis Figo was definitely the last, Real - staggering under a debt reckoned to be between £140m and £180m - want one more for the road.

The player in question is the Chilean striker Marcelo Salas, whose place at Lazio is unsure after the arrivals of Hernan Crespo and Claudio Lopez, and who may tempt Real into last order worth £15m. Salas flew back to Rome from South America during the week, where he had been playing in Chile's World Cup qualifying ties, and stopped in Madrid for nine hours, fuelling speculation that he met Real's new technical director, Jorge Valdano.

 

Emmanuel Petit may face Leeds United in the Nou Camp on Wednesday, but Barcelona's new signing has an antipathy for Les Anglais that would do justice to any French lorry driver. The midfielder is still irked at the way Arsenal sold him so hastily when Barça waved a huge cheque at David Dein, and last week chastised the Gunners' vice-chairman.

"I now realise that when there was a lot of money involved, he acted just like anyone else," lamented Petit. "I had no chance to say goodbye to anyone; my team-mates, the coach or the fans. I did not even have time to collect my trainers - instead, I left like arobber."

British motorists stranded at Channel ports may feel the highway robbery award should go elsewhere.

 

As Ken Bates once revealed, the first word of English that foreign players grasp is "net". Yet even Mr Chelsea might think twice about following Rosenborg's bid to stop their players earning a few extra bob.

The Norwegian club - who face Paris St Germain in Group F - have banned their players from having their own internet home pages, with the club's director, Rune Bratseth, complaining: "It's not in Rosen- borg's interest - the players cannot finance our competitors. Rosenborg own the marketing rights for the team, and the internet is our most important commercial channel."

Given the 60 per cent income tax levels in Scandinavia, net now means less, not more, for the Rosenborg boys.

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