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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Manchester United and Arsenal win to close in on Chelsea

Manchester United and Arsenal closed the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea with big victories over struggling sides Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth.

Defending champions United beat Wigan 5-0 at Old Trafford while Arsenal were never troubled by bottom-of-the-table Portsmouth and won 4-1 at Fratton Park.

Man United raced into a 3-0 lead by halftime with goals from Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Rafael before Dimitar Berbatov added the fourth soon after the break. Antonio Valencia scored United's fifth against his old club 15 minutes from time.

Arsenal also had the points wrapped up by the break thanks to goals from Eduardo, whose free-kick took a huge deflection off Younes Kaboul, and Samir Nasri.

Aaron Ramsey added a third while Alex Song Billong headed a superb fourth nine minutes from time, after Nadir Belhadj had netted a consolation for the home side.

Chelsea lead the table with 45 points from 20 matches, followed by United on 43 and Arsenal on 41 with a game in hand.

Wellington Phoenix beat Central Coast 2-0 in Australia

The Wellington Phoenix snapped a four-match winless streak by beating the Central Coast Mariners with a deserved 2-0 A-League victory in Gosford on New Years Eve.

Two second half strikes by England-born Barbados international Paul Infill enabled the Phoenix to take the points and move into seventh on the table, one point out of the play-off zone on 25.

Ifill had broke a scoreless deadlock two minutes after halftime when he won a penalty after being brought down with his back to goal by a clumsy Pedj Bojic. The striker slotted the ball home to open the scoring.

And a well timed move into the box by midfielder Adrian Caceres provided the killer blow in the 80th minute when he drew three defenders before back heeling to Ifill who gave keeper Andrew Redmayne no chance for a second time in the contest.

The Phoenix next play Brisbane Roar, at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on January 9th.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mark Hughes initial favourite for vacant Bolton Wanderers managers job

Mark Hughes is the opening favourite with Paddy Power to be the next Bolton manager following Gary Megson’s sacking today.

Hughes is 11/4 for a quick return to management following his recent exit at Manchester City with Alan Curbishley the next name in the frame at 6/1.

Other out of work managers seen as possible contenders include Paul Jewell and Darren Ferguson both at 13/2 with Steve Coppell, Kevin Keegan and Gareth Southgate at 14s, 16s and 20s, respectively. Former Bolton players Gary Speed and Peter Reid are 28/1 and 40/1.

Paddy Power, said: "Hughes is the favourite for a quick return to the Premier League but is it a job that is going to attract him after the millions he had at his disposal at Man City?

It may be that the likes of Alan Curbishley and Gary Speed are picked up by punters as more fitting of the Bolton mould.

One thing is for sure, this market is going to see some ups and downs over the next few days as managers rule themselves in or out."

Paul Jewell has stormed into favouritism at 11/4 (3.75), with Peter Reid now second at 13/2 (5.50). Mark Hughes is now 3rd favourite at 6/1 (7.00)

Next Permanent Bolton Manager Betting

11/4 Jewell (from 13/2)
13/2 Reid (from 40/1)
6/1 Hughes (from 11/4)
9/1 D Ferguson (from 13/2)
10/1 Curbishley (from 6/1)

(see all the latest Bolton Wanderers Next Manager Betting odds at Paddy Power)

Relegation Latest

2/5 Hull
5/13 Portsmouth
Evs Burnley
11/10 Wolves
13/5 West Ham
3/1 Bolton
9/2 Wigan
7/1 Bar

Gary Megson sacked as manager of Bolton Wanderers

Gary Megson has finally been sacked as manager of Bolton Wanderers - as the club continues to struggle against relegation.

Bolton fans have disliked Megson from the moment he was chosen to replace Sammy Lee just over two years ago. Indeed, there were even anti-Megson demonstrations ahead of his first game in charge, a UEFA Cup tie against Sporting Braga.

It seems they preferred the negative but effective football of Sam Allardyce who had taken Bolton to a Carling Cup final and subsequent European football in the UEFA Cup.

That ill-feeling continued right though to his last game in charge, against Hull on Tuesday night, when a controversial decision to replace goalscorer Ivan Klasnic was followed by an equalising goal from the visitors that ultimately proved to be the last milestone of Megson's time in charge.

Chief executive Phil Gartside knew that situation was unsustainable over the long-term and, after tossing away a two-goal lead at the Reebok Stadium last night, has decided to act.

Megson becomes the third Premier League boss to lose his job this season, and the second in less than a fortnight following Mark Hughes' exit from Manchester City.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool - Torres strikes for Liverpool at the end

Fernando Torres scored a 93rd-minute winner as Liverpool claimed a dramatic late victory over Aston Villa.

The Reds' season of frustration looked set to continue as Villa produced a spirited display in snowy conditions. Steven Gerrard went close, Pepe Reina denied Stewart Downing and Gabriel Agbonlahor, and John Carew headed wide.

The game was very evenly contested with the sides splitting posession 51%-49% in Liverpool's favour, and Liverpool edging the shot count 12-11.

A draw beckoned but Torres raced on to a ricochet around the edge of the Villa penalty area, and slotted in to stun Villa Park.

The Spaniard's strike provided a pulsating end to a disappointing encounter and Liverpool's joy at snatching a morale-boosting three points was clear for all to see.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Manchester City owner now wants to buy Real Madrid

Manchester City's owner Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has been sensationally linked with a billion pound swoop to buy Real Madrid.

According to reports in Spanish newspaper AS (which admitedly does routinely print a load of bullsh!t and acts as a Real Madrid publicity machine), Sheikh Mansour has been prompted to set up a meeting with Real President Florentino Perez early in 2010, and he is reportedly prepared to pay 1 billion euros for the La Liga giants.

The Madrid newspaper, however, say that such a deal would be near impossible because the club would need the permission from their shareholding fans to change its legal statutes, which would then pave the way for any deal to go through.

Real Madrid currently have two of the world's most high profile players in Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo on their books, but had to go into significant debt in order to pay ther transfer fees.

But reports that suggest Sheikh Mansour is willing to take on all the debts and could entice the Real Madrid fans to back the surprise bid.

Arsenal 3-0 Aston Villa - Fabregas makes the difference at the Emirates Stadium

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to inspire the Gunners to a 3-0 win over Aston Villa which hauls them back into the title race.

Fabregas, who had been out with a hamstring problem, netted a superb free-kick on 65 minutes and then scored a fine breakaway goal before being substituted after appearing to re-injure the hamstring.

Abou Diaby netted a third in stoppage time at Emirates Stadium, curling in a low effort from the edge of the area after a powerful run.

Villa - who had already beaten Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool this season - looked dangerous on the break but could not make the most of their best spell of pressure midway through the second half.

Arsene Wenger's men are now just four points behind leaders Chelsea, and with a match in hand on the sides around them.


Team          PL  GD PTS 
1 Chelsea     19 +28  42 
2 Man Utd     19 +22  40 
3 Arsenal     18 +27  38 
4 Aston Villa 19 +12  35 
5 Tottenham   19 +18  34 
6 Man City    18  +8  32 
7 Liverpool   19 +11  30 
8 Birmingham  19  +1  29 
9 Fulham      18  +6  27 
10 Sunderland 19  -3  22

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Schumacher return to F1 confirmed

The announcement of Michael Schumacher's return to F1 driving is now out on several mainstream news sites.

Schumacher retired at the end of 2006, and will be 41 when he starts racing again.

Michael Schumacher to return to F1 racing with Mercedes

The BBC Sport website is reporting that seven-times Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher will come out of retirement to race for Mercedes next year.

Schumacher will partner compatriot Nico Rosberg in the team that won the drivers' and constructors' titles in 2009 in its former guise as Brawn.

The German newspaper Bild is reporting that Schumacher signed a one-year deal and it is likely he will have the option to continue beyond 2010 if his returns goes well.

Schumacher will reportedly earn £6.2m after signing up to reunite with Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, who masterminded all seven of his titles, the first two with Benetton in 1994-5 and the subsequent five with Ferrari from 2000-4.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Lionel Messi wins Fifa World Player of the Year award

Barcelona football Lionel Messi has been named Fifa World Footballer of the Year to complete a stunning 2009 for the Argentine forward.

The 22-year-old, who helped Barca win the Club World Cup on Saturday - their sixth trophy of the year - also won the Ballon d'Or award this year.

In a vote by captains and head coaches of the men's and women's national teams, Messi won 1,073 votes, Ronaldo 352, Xavi 196, Kaka 190 and Iniesta 134.

Messi becomes the first Argentine to win the award, which was inaugurated in 1991, and it completes a stunning year for the brilliant winger.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Man City sack manager Mark Hughes, name Roberto Mancini as replacement

Manchester City have sacked Mark Hughes after 18 months in charge and named Roberto Mancini as his successor, with Brian Kidd as assistant.

News of Hughes' departure came via a statement, issued just two hours after the 4-3 home win over Sunderland. The Welshman had been appointed in June 2008, replacing Sven-Goran Eriksson.

But despite spending heavily on the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Joleon Lescott and Carlos Tevez, results have not satisfied City's ambitious owners.

Assistant coaches Mark Bowen, Eddie Niedzwiecki, Kevin Hitchcock and Glyn Hodges have also left the club.

A Manchester City statement read :

"A return of two wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed and set".

"Sheikh Mansour and the board felt that there was no evidence that the situation would fundamentally change."

"This is a particularly difficult announcement given the personal investment over the past 15 months on all sides and we would like to put on record our respect for and thanks to Mark Hughes and we wish him the best in his future career."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Liverpool get Romanian side Unirea Urziceni in Europa League Draw

Liverpool will play Romanian side Unirea Urziceni in the last 32 of the Europa League.

City rivals Everton have been handed a clash with Sporting Lisbon - a side who topped their Europa League group which also included Hertha Berlin, Heerenveen and FK Ventspils.

Fulham fared the worst of the English sides in Friday afternoon's draw - they must face Shakhtar Donetsk, who won last season's UEFA Cup.

Last 32 draw
Rubin Kazan v Hapoel Tel Aviv
Athletic Bilbao v Anderlecht
FC Copenhagen v Marseille
Panathinaikos v Roma
Atletico Madrid v Galatasaray
Ajax v Juventus
Club Brugge v Valencia
Fulham v Shakhtar Donetsk
Liverpool v Unirea Urziceni
Hamburg v PSV Eindhoven
Villarreal v Wolfsburg
Standard Liege v FC Salzburg
FC Twente v Werder Bremen
Lille v Fenerbahce
Everton v Sporting Lisbon
Hertha Berlin v Benfica

First legs to be played on February 18 and second legs on February 25.

Mark Hughes time at Man City looks to be up in May 2010

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes had better start keeping his eyes out for his next job if Guus Hiddink's agent is to be believed.

Hiddink's agent, Cees Van Nieuwenhuizen, told the Daily Telegraph when asked if he has spoken to the English club's chief executive Garry Cook: "Yes, I did. Definitely. I had a call because I have been working with Garry for 12 years since we worked together at Nike.

"He (Cook) asked me if it would be worthwhile having a meeting to discuss the future and what might happen next summer. But I told him that Guus was contracted to Russia."

Reports suggest Hiddink, who guided Chelsea to an FA Cup win as interim manager in the second half of last season, is prepared to consider his future in February.

City were comfortably beaten 3-0 at White Hart Lane to cast doubts over their top-four credentials and the security of their manager's job.

Current boss Mark Hughes is under increasing pressure after his side slipped to eighth in the Premier League following Wednesday's defeat at Tottenham.

Champions League Draw - Man United get AC Milan, Chelsea face Inter, Arsenal v Porto

AC Milan v MAN UTD
Lyon v Real Madrid
CSKA Moscow v Sevilla
Bayern Munich v Fiorentina
Inter Milan v CHELSEA
Olympiakos v Bordeaux
Stuttgart v Barcelona

The first-leg ties will be played on 16, 17, 23 or 24 February. The return games will be played on either 9, 10, 16 or 17 March.

Liverpool are not seeded for Europa League draw

Liverpool will not be seeded for the Europa League knockout stage draw which takes place in Switzerland on Friday.

The Reds enter at the round of 32 stage after being eliminated from the Champions League in the group stages.

Liverpool join fellow Premier League sides Fulham and Everton, who are also unseeded, in the draw.

A Uefa spokesman said: "The 12 group winners from the Europa League and the best four third-placed sides from the Champions League are the top-16 seeds."

Liverpool moved into the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League group, but their poor goal difference means they miss out on a seeding.

Fellow English clubs Everton and Fulham are also unseeded after finishing second in their groups.

Top 16 seeds :
A: RSC Anderlecht (BEL)
B: Valencia CF (ESP)
C: Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC (ISR)
D: Sporting Clube de Portugal (POR)
E: AS Roma (ITA)
F: Galatasaray AS (TUR)
G: FC Salzburg (AUT)
H: Fenerbahce SK (TUR)
I: SL Benfica (POR)
J: FC Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)
K: PSV Eindhoven (NED)
L: Werder Bremen (GER)
FC Unirea Urziceni (ROU) *
Juventus (ITA)*
VfL Wolfsburg (GER)*
Olympique de Marseille (FRA)*

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tiger Woods likely to spend Christmas with his mom

The only bird Tiger Woods will be tucking into this Christmas will be a juicy turkey according to bookies Paddy Power who are betting 2/5 that the troubled golfer will spend the holidays with his mother.

According to reports, Tiger's stunning wife Elin is planning to spend the holidays in her native Sweden with everybody except her husband. If those rumours are true it leaves the world Number One with little choice and speculation has already begun as to where he’ll opt to keep the head down.

At home in the US is the most likely destination, particularly if a visit to mom is on the cards, while it's 3/1 that Tiger follows his family to Sweden. There are even reports that Tiger will escape to Ireland for the festive period.

Sharon McHugh, spokesperson for Paddy Power said: "It looks like Tiger is not out of the woods yet and the only bird he'll be stuffing this Christmas will be the turkey at mom's house!"

There are two betting markets for Tiger Woods at Paddy Power ...

Which woman will Tiger spend Christmas with?
2/5 Kultida Woods (his mom)
7/4 Elin Nordegren
18/1 Rachel Uchitel
20/1 Jessica Simpson
20/1 Jamie Grubbs
20/1 Joslyn James
25/1 Jamie Jungers
25/1 Kalika Moquin
33/1 Cori Rist
33/1 Mindy Lawton
33/1 Loredana Jolie
40/1 Holly Sampson
40/1 Julie Postle
50/1 Theresa Rogers
100/1 Oprah

Where will Tiger spend Christmas?
1/4 US
3/1 Sweden
8/1 Dubai
10/1 Ireland
12/1 Belize
14/1 Barbados
18/1 Mexico
20/1 England
50/1 Scotland
100/1 Wales
500/1 North Pole

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Henrik Larsson is back in football - as a manager

Former Celtic and Barcelona striker Henrik Larsson has been appointed manager of Swedish second division side Landskrona Bois.

Larsson is now 38 and retired as a player in October after finishing his career with Helsingborgs.

Larsson was capped 106 times by Sweden and won the Champions League with Barcelona in 2006 in a 2-1 win over Arsenal in Paris.

He also won two Primera Division titles with Barcelona, four Scottish Premier League crowns while at Celtic and was part of the Manchester United squad that won the Premier League in 2007.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Portsmouth deny planning to go into administration

Portsmouth have issued a strongly worded statement denying rumours they are planning to go into financial administration.

Speculation over the club's finances increased after it was revealed last week that the players had been paid late for a second time this season.

A transfer embargo is currently in force because of debts to other clubs and yet Portsmouth desperately need to strengthen the squad in the January transfer window because half a dozen players will be absent at the African Cup of Nations.

More at the BBC Sports website

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Champions League Group stages complete - 16 teams for second round named

The lineup for the UEFA Champions League first knockout round was completed on Wednesday when the group stage concluded with holders Barcelona, Inter Milan, VfB Stuttgart and Olympiacos taking the final four places.

Generally, the group winners are the stronger section with the five shorted priced sides in the Winners group, but with Inter Milan, Olympique Lyon and Bayern Munich lurking as dangerous runners-up opponents.

Group winners
Bordeaux (FRA)
Manchester United (ENG)
Real Madrid (ESP)
Chelsea (ENG)
ACF Fiorentina (ITA)
FC Barcelona (ESP)
Sevilla (ESP)
Arsenal (ENG)

Group runners-up
Bayern Munchen (GER)
CSKA Moskva (RUS)
AC Milan (ITA)
FC Porto (POR)
Olympique Lyonnais (FRA)
Internazionale Milano (ITA)
VfB Stuttgart (GER)
Olympiacos (GRE)

Knockout Draw
The draw will take place at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland at 12.00CET on Friday 18 December.

The UEFA Champions League first knockout round first-leg ties will take place on 16/17 and 23/24 February 2010 (with two games each day) with the second legs to be played on 9/10 and 16/17 March.

Outright Winner Betting Odds :
Barcelona 4.50 @ Betfred
Chelsea 5.00 @ Eurobet
Real Madrid 7.00 @ Bet365
Manchester United 9.00 @ Ladbrokes
Arsenal 11.00 @ Eurobet
Internazionale Milano 17.00 @ Eurobet
Sevilla 21.00 @ Centrebet
Bayern Munchen 23.00 @ Centrebet
AC Milan 23.00 @ Bet365

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Manchester United win in Wolfsburg while Bayern Munich thrash Juventus

Bayern Munich clinched their place in the Champions League knockout stages with a come-from-behind 4-1 victory over Juventus which saw the Italians eliminated.

Bayern earned the win at Juventus despite the Serie A side taking an early lead in Turin through David Trezeguet.

Bayern goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt levelled from the penalty spot and Ivica Olic put the visitors in front seven minutes into the second half.

Late goals from Mario Gomez and Anatoliy Tymoschuk sealed the German side's progression - to leave Juventus with the consolation of a Europa League place.


Michael Owen scored a hat-trick as Manchester United made light of their injury woes to record a 3-1 win over German champions Wolfsburg.

Edin Dzeko's 56th-minute header cancelled out Owen's first-half opener, but the English international struck twice in the closing stages of the second half to leave Wolfsburg contemplating a place in the UEFA Europa League.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Who's going to make the top four in England this season?

Manchester City are in the race for a top-four Premier League finish, according to bookmakers after a weekend of twists and turns in the chase for Champions League places.

Everton were the last team to dislodge the 'big four' of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, back in 2004/05

And while Chelsea (not backable), Man United (1.01) and Arsenal (1.17) are short prices for retaining their places the race is on for the fourth spot.

Liverpool are even-money, Manchester City are 6/5 shots after their thrilling 2-1 victory over Chelsea on Saturday, while Spurs, who currently occupy fourth place, are now out to 9/4 for one of those coveted top-four slots after drawing at Everton.

Current standings :
Chelsea --- Pl 15 Pts 36
Man Utd --- Pl 15 Pts 34
Arsenal --- Pl 14 Pts 28
Spurs ----- Pl 15 Pts 27
Villa ----- Pl 15 Pts 26
Man City -- Pl 14 Pts 25
Liverpool - Pl 15 Pts 24

Top Four Betting Odds at Paddy Power
Manchester United 1.01 @ Paddy Power
Arsenal 1.17 @ Paddy Power
Liverpool 2.00 @ Paddy Power
Manchester City 2.20 @ Paddy Power
Tottenham Hotspur 3.50 @ Paddy Power
Aston Villa 6.50 @ Paddy Power

Sunday Football - Fulham beat Sunderland : Everton and Spurs share points

Fulham striker Bobby Zamora fired his club back into the top half of the table with a 1-0 win over Sunderland at Craven Cottage.

It means Fulham leapfrog over Sunderland into eighth, with their form reliant on home performances: they have not lost on their own turf since September.

Tottenham lost a two-goal lead and then missed an injury-time penalty to draw 2-2 at Everton.

Jermain Defoe opened the scoring just after the break and the points appeared safe when Michael Dawson doubled the lead on the hour.

But goals from Louis Saha and Tim Cahill levelled the scores before Defoe's weak spot-kick was saved by Tim Howard after Tony Hibbert had brought down Wilson Palacios.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Juventus beat inter Milan 2-1 while AC Milan thrash Sampdoria 3-0

Juve beat leaders Inter 2-1 as Mourinho sent off
Claudio Marchisio scored a superb goal gave 10-man Juventus a 2-1 win over leaders Inter Milan in an enthralling game on Saturday.

Italy midfielder Marchisio danced past Walter Samuel and chipped the ball over Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar just before the hour mark to inflict Inter’s second league defeat this term.

Juventus took the lead after 20 minutes when Diego's free kick was headed on by Giorgio Chiellini and the ball deflected in off Inter's Lucio.

Inter manager Jose Mourinho sarcastically applauded the referee after the goal for awarding the free kick and was immediately sent to the stands by the referee.

Inter Milan equalised after 26 minutes when a Dejan Stankovic’s cross was headed in by an unmarked Samuel Eto'o.

Second-placed Milan overpower Sampdoria 3-0
AC Milan scored three goals in the first 23 minutes to seal an easy victory over Sampdoria.

Ronaldinho set up the first two goals but then went off with a minor hamstring strain with one eye on Tuesday's Champions League clash at FC Zurich, where a win will put Milan through.

Striker Marco Borriello headed in the Brazilian's cross after just two minutes for his fourth league goal of the season.

Ronaldinho, playing on the left of a new three-man attack, then laid the ball off for midfielder Clarence Seedorf score just inside the box after 21 minutes.

Alexandre Pato scored soon after to secure a fifth straight league win for Leonardo’s side, who have recovered from a shaky start to the campaign.

Friday, December 04, 2009

FIFA 2010 World Cup Final Draw for South Africa Completed

England have been drawn to face the United States, Algeria and Slovenia in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Five-time champions Brazil face Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea in arguably the strongest group.

Holders Italy were drawn with Slovakia, Paraguay and New Zealand and and three-time winners Germany will take on Serbia, Ghana and Australia.










Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Man City through to Carling Cup semi-final - and will face Manchester United

Manchester City deservedly sealed a place in the Carling Cup semi-final after beating a youthful Arsenal side 3-0 at Eastlands.

Over 46,000 fans turned out to see a strong Manchester City side take on Arsenal's young gunners, and while Arsenal dominated possession (61%-39%), the kids never looked like having the experience to open up City.

The game was still scoreless at the break, Carlos Tevez's spectacular strike five minutes after half-time put City on the path into the last four and a stunning angled drive from Shaun Wright-Phillips sealed the victory for Mark Hughes' side.

Substitute Vladimir Weiss wrapped up City's triumph a minute from time.

Arsenal side :
21 Fabianski
18 Silvestre
27 Eboue
30 Traore
37 Eastmond (Watt 68)
07 Rosicky
16 Ramsey
17 Song Billong
19 Wilshere
32 Merida
12 Vela

24 Mannone,
34 Bartley,
42 Gilbert,
35 Coquelin,
41 Frimpong,
48 Randall,
54 Watt

Carling Cup Quarter-Final Results :
Blackburn 3-3 Chelsea (Blackburn win 4-3 on pens)
Man City 3-0 Arsenal
Man United 2-0 Tottenham
Portsmouth 2-4 Aston Villa

Carling Cup Semi-final draw:
Manchester City v Manchester United
Blackburn Rovers v Aston Villa

First legs to be played week commencing January 4 and second legs week commencing January 18.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Barcelona star Lionel Messi wins Ballon d'Or award

Barcelona's Lionel Messi has won the acclaimed Ballon d'Or award after being named European Footballer of the Year.

French magazine France Football said the Argentina forward beat 2008 winner Cristiano Ronaldo into second place by a massive margin - 473 points to 233.

Messi, 22, won the treble of Champions League, the Spanish championship and Spanish cup with Barcelona last season.

Third and fourth place in the voting were Messi's Barcelona team-mates, midfielders Xavi (170 points) and Andres Iniesta (149).

Striker Samuel Eto'o, who left Barcelona for Inter Milan during the close-season, was fifth.

Messi becomes the sixth Barcelona player to take the award but the first since Brazil playmaker Ronaldinho in 2005.

2000 - Luis Figo (Portugal),
2001 - Michael Owen (England),
2002 - Ronaldo,
2003 - Pavel Nedved (Czech Republic),
2004 - Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine),
2005 - Ronaldinho (Brazil),
2006 - Fabio Cannavaro (Italy),
2007 - Kaka (Brazil),
2008 - Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal).

Paddy Power Christmas Countdown - White Christmas ?

Top Irish bookmaker Paddy Power was today inundated with bets on a white Christmas as Ireland woke up to bitter temperatures and frost covered grounds.

The odds on a single snowflake falling in Dublin on Christmas Day were cut to 9/2 from 5/1 after an avalanche of bets flooded in on the festive market. Further north, the Paddy Power odds on Belfast waking up to a blanket of snow were also cut to 7/2 from 4/1.

Ireland's last "official" white Christmas was in 2004. This year, a single snowflake registered in Dublin airport on the 25th December could cost the bookie in excess of €75,000.

Sharon McHugh, spokesperson for Paddy Power said: "We always witness a flood of bets the minute a bit of ice forms on the ground. It's been five years since we last saw a white Christmas so punters might just get their wish this year!"

White Christmas in different Cities ...
Evens Chicago
11/10 Boston
11/10 Berlin
13/8 New York
3/1 Glasgow
7/2 Belfast
4/1 London
9/2 Dublin
5/1 Cardiff
11/2 Manchester
6/1 Cork
8/1 Paris
10/1 Madrid
12/1 Barcelona

Check out the latest odds using any of the Paddy Power links and then choosing Novelty Bets -> Weather from their menu or ...

TRy this direct link to the Paddy Power Novelty Betting Page and choose Weather ... if they haven't moved it again !