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Friday 20 April 2018

Platini kept options open

I SUSPECT some will have been enjoying the recent discomfort of UEFA president Michel Platini.

As France, faced with overturning a 2-0 first leg defeat, prepared for last night's play-off second leg in Paris, Platini did some unneccessary early damage limitation. "It's just a tournament among others," he philosophised, contemplating a World Cup finals in Rio without France. "It wouldn't be the end of the world. There are bigger problems."

In the 1970s, Association Football was regarded by many American businessmen as the new Klondike. The New York Cosmos, with Pele in the squad, became a huge draw. But the National American Soccer League, formed in 1968, stuttered out in 1984. Ironically, the sport had grown at college level and two years after hosting the World Cup finals in 1994, Major League Soccer (MLS) was set up. Due to expand to 24 teams by 2020, the MLS has room for five new clubs (franchises). In 2007, David Beckham was considering American soccer as a potential investment when he secured an option on starting a franchise as part of his LA Galaxy contract. Now Beckham is reportedly in talks over a new club in Miami. Given the uncertainty of the sport's lasting appeal in the US, it could be a defining moment in the former Manchester United star's career.

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Real Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool ... the list of clubs interested in signing Dundee's 17-year-old Ryan Gauld, who made his debut for Scotland U21 last week, grows longer. But, despite Gauld asserting, "I'm addicted to my craft", will those clubs dreaming of a new Lionel Messi be impressed by the profile photo on his Twitter account which shows a tuxed-up young Ryan with an attractive girlfriend?

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An embarrassed Alex Ferguson can shrug off the revelations that his best-selling book is riddled with factual inaccuracies. Fergie need only look to Eamon Dunphy's biography of U2 for another classic example of a book ridiculed for a list of mistakes and debunked by one expert as containing "nothing I can take at face value". The retired Man United boss can surely take comfort that such criticism hasn't stopped Eamon crying all the way to the bank.

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It's weeks since I raised the possibility of FIFA intervening in the appalling loss of life among migrant workers on projects in Qatar ahead of FIFA's 2022 World Cup. Now Amnesty International says "FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses related to the World Cup". Sepp Blatter argues FIFA can not be held responsible for the deaths.

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