Ridsdale repairing Turkish relations

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The Independent Football

Peter Risdale, the Leeds United chairman, embraced the Galatasaray president, Faruk Süren, when they met by chance in Monaco yesterday and pledged that football would be the winner if today's Champions' League draw paired their clubs.

Peter Risdale, the Leeds United chairman, embraced the Galatasaray president, Faruk Süren, when they met by chance in Monaco yesterday and pledged that football would be the winner if today's Champions' League draw paired their clubs.

Galatasaray beat Leeds in the Uefa Cup semi-finals last season after two of the Yorkshire team's followers were killed by Turks in Istanbul 24 hours before the first leg. It had been thought they could not meet in the first group phase of the premier competition, but Internazionale's failure to beat Helsingborg of Sweden on Wednesday has led to Galatasaray's elevation from the third tier of seeds, alongside Leeds, to the second.

After his encounter with Faruk, Ridsdale said: "I gave him a bear hug, shook his hand and told him I was looking forward to playing them if we were drawn together. We need to demonstrate to the world that sport will always prevail over adversity. While we are always conscious of the thoughts and wishes of the families of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight, it's also important to send out the right message."

Ridsdale arrived in Monte Carlo, fresh from Leeds' third qualifying round win in Germany over TSV 1860 Munich, to learn of an 8.3 per cent rise in the share price of the club's owners, Leeds Sporting plc, in response to events in the Olympiastadion.

Alan Smith's clinically taken goal, allied to resilient defending and a display of gutsy and graceful goalkeeping by Nigel Martyn, could be worth £15m to Leeds from television rights, prize money and gate receipts.

But the result may prove as significant in terms of cachet as cash. Some of O'Leary's summer transfer targets did not want to come to Elland Road, perhaps viewing Leeds as a dour, northern industrial city and the club as Uefa Cup rather than Champions' League material.

Now, even if their participation does not extent beyond the initial group phase, Leeds' presence among Europe's élite can only enhance their image among players and agents. However, Leeds, like Manchester United, are committed to developing their own talent, and six of the severely depleted side against 1860 were home-grown.

Smith, one of three 19-year-olds, has begun the campaign with four goals from three matches and was preferred in Munich to the £5m Michael Bridges. The precocious striker could not resist wishing for one of the continent's glamour clubs. "I hope we get drawn against Juventus," he said. "It would be something to play against (Alessandro) Del Piero in Turin, and I'd love to get his shirt afterwards."

Leeds, Arsenal and Rangers might feel inclined to raise a glass to Helsingborg, Anderlecht, Sturm Graz and Shakhtar Donetsk as they prepare for the draw. The midweek victories of that unlikely quartet, over Internazionale, Porto, Feyenoord and Slavia Prague, are likely to result in a kinder programme for the British trio.

This is because Inter and company are above the English and Scottish clubs in the Uefa rankings and their demise means Arsenal are promoted into the second tier of seeds and Leeds and Rangers into the third. Manchester United were always going to be in the first rank with the likes of Barcelona, Lazio and Real Madrid.

The English clubs, though in different seeding pots, cannot be drawn together, though Uefa indicated yesterday that Rangers could be paired with an English team despite the same television company, ITV, covering their matches.

The customarily complex draw (1.00pm British time, broadcast live on Eurosport and at www.uefa.com) will split the 32 teams into six groups of four with matches being played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 12 September and 8 November.

Although Nicolas Anelka will not be seen back at Highbury just yet, as Paris St-Germain, his latest club, are in the same pot as Arsenal, the draw does offer the possibility of an Old Trafford return for Sporting Lisbon's Peter Schmeichel.

Less romantic is the prospect of further clashes between English and Turkish supporters. Arsenal cannot meet Galatasaray but Manchester United and Leeds might and all three clubs could be sent to another Istanbul club, Besiktas.

CHAMPIONS' LEAGUE SEEDINGS

POT 1

Real Madrid (Spain, holders), Juventus (Italy), Barcelona (Spain), Bayern Munich (Germany), Lazio (Italy), Manchester United (England), Monaco (France), Valencia (Spain)

POT 2

Spartak Moscow (Russia), Paris St-Germain (France), Olympique Lyon (France), Milan (Italy), Deportivo La Coruña (Spain), Arsenal (England), PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), Galatasaray (Turkey)

POT 3

Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine), Rosenborg Trondheim (Norway), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Olympiakos Piraeus (Greece), Panathinaikos (Greece), Leeds United (England), Sparta Prague (Czech Republic), Rangers (Scotland)

POT 4

Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), Hamburg (Germany), Anderlecht (Belgium), Besiktas (Turkey), Sturm Graz (Austria), Heerenveen (Netherlands), Helsingborg (Sweden), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)

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