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English sides paid out over $1bn in 2013

<b>Long, long shot </b><br/>
There have been Chinese whispers of a return to the Premier League for <b>Didier Drogba</b>, and despite the unpredictability of the Ivorian power-house, we give it a 0.01% chance of happening. The rumours surfaced as Shanghai Shenhua Chairman Zhu Jun supposedly threatened to put a lid on his cash-flow into the club, with the futures of Drogba and former Chelsea team-mate Nicholas Anelka looking edgy.

Didier Drogba is still under contract with Shanghai Shenhua claim Chinese club

Ivorian striker was announced as a Galatasaray player this week

Lionel Messi sends Gerd Mueller signed shirt after breaking goal record

Barcelona forward broke 40-year-old mark of 85 goals in a calender year

Hungary and Bulgaria sanctioned by Fifa for racism

FIFA have ordered Hungary and Bulgaria to each play their next home World Cup qualifiers behind closed doors following racist or anti-Semitic abuse by their fans.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi becomes most decorated player in history after winning unprecedented fourth straight Ballon d'Or

James Lawton: Lionel Messi makes us smile – Luis Suarez shows football's ugly new face

Messi’s argument for Andres Iniesta winning the Ballon D’Or was that he was the heartbeat and creative force of Spain’s historic achievement of winning three straight major international tournaments

Walk-off part: An angry Kevin-Prince Boateng of Milan (right) leaves the field in response to the racist abuse

Silvio Berlusconi reacts angrily to Sepp Blatter's comments about Kevin-Prince Boateng

Fifa president says AC Milan forward was wrong to walk off

Messi tipped to pick up fourth award after stellar year

Lionel Messi is poised to win a fourth Ballon d'Or tonight, making him the most decorated player in history after his achievement of becoming the highest-scoring player in a calendar year. The Barcelona forward is up against Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta for the award, which takes place at the Kongresshaus in Zurich.

Lionel Messi poised for fourth Ballon D'Or

Award is handed out tonight, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta the other contenders

Sepp Blatter disagrees with Kevin-Prince Boateng's actions over racist abuse

The FIFA president believes the midfielder acted wrongly in the face of racist chanting

Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng gestures towards his abusers

Kevin-Prince Boateng vows to walk-off even in Champions League games

AC Milan forward made a stand against racism after abuse during friendly

Mohamed bin Hammam is determined to disprove corruption allegations

Mohamed Bin Hammam issued with another life ban

Former presidential challenger banned by Fifa

Clashing symbol: Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel competes in the Club World Cup in Japan while on ‘day release’ from a woefully inadequate domestic ban

The Last Word: FA anti-racist action plan is just an insult

Football's leaders need to produce more than tokenism to prove they are up for the fight

Matches were fixed before 2010 World Cup, says Fifa

A FIFA report on match-fixing in the weeks before the 2010 World Cup has found “compelling evidence” that one or more friendly games involving host South Africa were fixed ahead of the showpiece tournament.

Lionel Messi

It's official: Lionel Messi DOESN'T hold the goal scoring record

Fifa refuse to ratify Lionel Messi's goalscoring record amid challenges from Brazil and Zambia

The Tigre players refused to come out for the second half on Wednesday

Tunnel bust-ups and guns spark safety fears over 2014 Brazil World Cup

Argentine side Tigre claim they were attacked by police and stadium staff but Fifa insists finals security worries unfounded

Supporters of Brazil’s Sao Paulo FC cheer for their team before their 2012 Copa Sudamericana final

Fifa confident over 2014 World Cup security despite violence at Copa Sudamericana final

Visiting players claim there were threatened with guns by security officials

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Actor Burt Reynolds last year
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Johnny Handle, Northumberland, Ted Relph, President of Lakeland Dialect Society, and Sid Calderbank, Lancashire, founder of the National Dialect Day
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The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game