A close associate of disgraced former Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed bin Hammam has been banned from the game for life by FIFA’s ethics committee.

Najeeb Chirakal was first suspended by world football’s governing body in 2012 for failing to cooperate with its investigations into Bin Hammam, the Qatari who took on Sepp Blatter in the 2011 FIFA presidential race only to be thrown out of the sport a year later.

A FIFA investigation into Chirakal’s activities was only completed in November but the ethics committee, chaired by German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, has not taken so long to reach its verdict.

Kalinic dismisses move to China

Fiorentina striker Nikola Kalinic has turned down a lucrative move to Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian and opted to remain with the Serie A club.

The 29-year-old Croatia forward has rejected a reported €48 million deal to move to the Super League. The former Blackburn player was reported to have been offered a salary of €12 million a year to make the switch to Tianjin on a four-year deal.

Kalinic said: “I’m staying at Fiorentina! This is my decision.

“Only mine. I want to play in Italy, where for two years. I’m fine, I feel really good here.”

Granada lure Colombian Ramos

La Liga strugglers Granada have used the influence of their Chinese owner Jiang Lizhang to bring Colombia striker Adrian Ramos to the club to revitalise their ailing campaign and boost their chances of survival.

Chinese Super League outfit Chongqing Dangdai Lifan, owned by Granada’s majority shareholder Lizhang, have reportedly agreed to sign Ramos from Borussia Dortmund for €10 million in a deal that will see him spend the remainder of this season with Granada.

Ramos scored 13 Bundesliga goals since joining Dortmund from Hertha Berlin in 2014.

Saints boss rules out move for Sakho

Reports linking Southampton with a move for Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho were dismissed as speculation by Saints boss Claude Puel.

It was reported that Southampton were preparing a bid for the out-of-favour Sakho as a potential successor to Jose Fonte who left for West Ham last weekend.

However, when asked about the 26-year-old Liverpool defender Puel responded: “I know this player but I know nothing about this, it’s speculation.

“For the moment it’s not the situation, and perhaps we will stay with the same squad, with good opportunities for Jack Stephens or Florin Gardos.”

Cassano mulling retirement

Former Italy striker Antonio Cassano said he will hang up his boots if no interesting offers come in for his services this month following several weeks of inactivity after being frozen out of the Sampdoria squad.

Last week, the former Roma, Real Madrid, Milan and Inter player confirmed he had asked Sampdoria to terminate his contract which runs until the end of the season.

“He told me that, without valid offers, he will just end it here, without even playing a farewell match,” Sampdoria coach Marco Giampaolo was quoted as saying.

Cassano’s only offer this month came from modest Serie B side Virtus Entella.

Ogbonna lay-off

West Ham United defender Angelo Ogbonna is set to miss the rest of the season as he requires surgery on a knee injury, the BBC reported yesterday.

The Italy international, 28, has featured in 19 of the Hammers’ 22 Premier League games this season. But after the arrival of defender Jose Fonte from Southampton last week, manager Slaven Bilic will now allow Ogbonna to have surgery.

“I have to praise Angelo, because he has played the whole season with an injury,” said Bilic.

“He needs an operation on his knee to be fit long-term, and it was supposed to be a couple of weeks but we asked him to play.”

Zidane wants more affection from fans

Zinedine Zidane called for fans to show more affection towards his Real Madrid players after they claimed a 2-1 win over Malaga.

Two goals from Sergio Ramos were enough for Real to return to winning ways following back-to-back losses. However, Zidane was concerned with the lack of support for his players, which resulted in an edgy performance at the Bernabeu as boos rang out at times for Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Our fans are always very demanding, but sometimes the players and coaches need more affection,” he said.

“When we have difficulties, we need fans to support the team.”

Ronaldo suffered a frustrating day, hitting a post late on after seeing a shot cleared off the line.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us