Roy's mask, Rossi wrath

May 5, 2012
By Jon Carter

Off the Ball never rests in its mission to scratch around the underbelly of professional football to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories.

This week, Liam Gallagher hogs the City spotlight, Roy Hodgson is ridiculed by the Sun but revered by the West Brom fans, Javi Martinez puts Ronaldo in his place, Neymar predicts a Santos result and Delio Rossi is sacked for smacking his own player.

Masking the problem

Roy Hodgson
GettyImagesWould you want to wear this mask?

West Brom may be losing manager Roy Hodgson to the national side, but they are set to give him a right royal send-off on the final day of the season as supporters are planning an England-themed day of joviality.

With The Hawthorns no doubt rocking to the sounds of Vindaloo and Three Lions against Arsenal on May 13, you will also see thousands of fans wearing England shirts and wearing Hodgson masks. Quite a sight to behold, but a nice tribute organised by the forum.

A spokesman said: "It's a theme everybody can take part in. I'm sure the majority of people have England shirts or flags, so let's all bring them along to give Roy our support. I think he'll really appreciate us backing him in his new venture."

If Roy brings back the European Championship trophy this summer, those masks may well get another run out before the year ends.

Ronaldo put in his place

It's been a while since Cristiano Ronaldo last won a league title - and 1,461 days since Real Madrid last did - so perhaps this explains his inflammatory gesture to Javi Martinez of Athletic Bilbao after Real clinched the prize at San Mames on Wednesday night.

With trademark dignity and honour, Ronaldo made sure that his opponent - who had been sent off for the harshest of handballs - knew who was top dog. Martinez gave the Portuguese as good as he got, though, responding: "Don't celebrate too much - I'm a World Cup champion and you're not, clown."

City definitely, maybe, take title advantage

Monday night saw what should have been one of the greatest nights in Manchester City's history - a 1-0 win over title rivals Manchester United and the knowledge that winning their two remaining games would almost certainly see them crowned champions for the first time since 1968.

But famous fans have a habit of hogging the spotlight and, once again, the beady-eyed former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher took centre stage as he decided to gatecrash the post-match press conference at the Etihad Stadium.

"He [Sir Alex Ferguson] must have been blinded by the lights. He must have been on the whisky too much," Gallagher slurred in his Manc twang, before humbly postulating before the open mouthed media that Roberto Mancini is ''almost as cool as me."

Thankfully, the entrance of match-winner Vincent Kompany was enough to persuade him to leave the room, but Gallagher soon tweeted a picture of himself shaking the hand of Diego Maradona - who was there to watch son-in-law Sergio Aguero - with the caption: "Maradona shaking the hand of God". Even Mario Balotelli must have hung his head in shame.

Tat's the way to do it

Hertha Berlin could be relegated from the German Bundesliga this weekend but, unusually, it could be by the hand of someone with the club's emblem tattooed on his body.

Indeed, former coach Markus Babbel has an axe-swinging, Hertha flag-bearing Viking tattooed on his upper arm but, after he was forced out of the club in acrimonious circumstances in December, will show them no mercy as he takes his Hoffenheim side to the Olympiastadion.

"They won't be getting any favours from us," Babbel said. "Any side who pick up just eight points in the second half of the season and get overtaken by better teams cannot complain. Then Hertha will deserve to go down."

Babbel left the Berlin side lying a comfortable 11th in the table on 20 points after falling out with general manager Michael Preetz, but they have plummeted down the table and sacked Michael Skibbe before turning to veteran Otto Rehhagel. Now the capital club must try to beat Babbel's men, while at the same time hoping Cologne lose at home to Bayern Munich, if they are to avoid the drop. Still, they've already got under his skin.

Neymar the prophet

He's one of the top young players in the world and has already scored over 100 goals for Santos, despite being 20 years old. However, his skills on the football pitch may not be the most impressive thing about Neymar if his team-mate Ganso is to be believed.

GettyImagesNeymar is highly in demand

"He is a genius and a prophet," the Brazil midfielder said. "We were in camp and he told me (before the game against Sao Paulo) 'It will be 3-1 to us. We will open up 2-0, we will concede a goal and then we will suffer pressure before adding a final goal'. He is a genius."

This smells a little fishy to Off the Ball as Neymar scored a hat-trick, although we're willing to forgive and forget if the forward finally ends the speculation over his future and 'predicts' which top European club he will eventually end up at.

Video of the week

Do you ever get the feeling that a manager just wants to smack some sense into his players? Overpaid, arrogant and disrespectful, it probably still isn't licence to do what Fiorentina coach Delio Rossi did to Adem Ljajic . This 20-second beating got him the sack.

More than words...

Oily rag the Sun wasn't at all bitter that its columnist, Harry Redknapp, was snubbed for Roy Hodgson as England's next manager as they poked fun at a 64-year-old man's speech impediment. ©The Sun

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