OFF THE BALL

Hargreaves gets fit, Swedish shirt swap

July 8, 2011
By Dominic Raynor
(Archive)

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, female Sweden pin-up Josefine Oqvist swaps shirts with a lucky fan, little-known Argentine playmaker Dario Conca joins the world's highest paid players, Owen Hargreaves embraces irony with his very own fitness video and Paraguay model Larissa Riquelme vows to get naked again.

Hargreaves for sale on YouTube

Owen Hargreaves limps off in his last match for Manchester United
GettyImagesOwen Hargreaves limps off in his last match for Manchester United

Remember when Michael Owen was desperate to get a new club and put together his 'I'm not injury-prone' dossier that was universally ridiculed until he secured a shock move to Manchester United? Well, it seems the bench-warming striker has been giving tips to fellow crock Owen Hargreaves, who has released a YouTube fitness video in attempt to prove his physical condition and secure a new employer.

The injury-prone former England midfielder was released by Manchester United at the end of the season after playing just nine-minutes during the 2010-11 campaign due to ongoing knee problems. The former Bayern Munich star joined United for £17 million and won the Champions League in his first season in 2007 but has made only 39 appearances in his four years at Old Trafford.

In a somewhat ironic twist the Canada-born crock has now uploaded a series of videos to YouTube showing him undertaking various exercises in the hope that, as a free agent, a club will take punt and sign him up.

And while the 30-year-old's PR drive has been widely mocked, or brilliantly parodied , he can always point to what happened to the other Owen, who now, somehow, has a Premier League title-winners medal and a new one-year deal at United.

City-bound Clichy a man of his word

"I really believe that if you are a player who thinks only about money then you will end up at Manchester City. You have to think if you want to play for a big club and have your image, or if you want to play for a good club and earn big money."

Those are the wise words of one Gael Clichy, uttered back in July 2009 after former Arsenal team-mate Emmanuel Adebayor made the decision to quit the "big club" at the Emirates and head to Manchester City for the "big money".

So imagine Off The Ball's (lack of) surprise when the very same Gael Clichy decided to quit the Gunners, as Adebayor did, this week and head to Eastlands to sign a lucrative contract, as Adebayor did, in a reported £7 million move. However, the Frenchman's move was of course not motivated by money but rather by the fact that he no longer regards his new employers as just a "good club".

"I am really happy to be joining such a great club," Clichy told the club's official website. "I hope I can add to the quality we already have here because we have a fantastic squad who I believe will continue to get better. I can't wait to get started and I think anything is possible with this team."

Dario Conca joins world's highest paid players

But while Clichy might think he is laughing all the way to the bank, the Frenchman is just small change compared to little-known Argentine playmaker Dario Conca, who rather amazingly became one of the world's highest-paid players this week when he joined Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande.

Now you may never of heard of Conca, or Evergrande, but the crucial information is that the pint-sized Fluminense midfielder signed a two-and-a-half-year contract worth a staggering £23.7 million, according to Globoesporte, which apparently puts him third in the list of football's biggest earners, behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Speaking about the ludicrously large deal, Fluminense coach Abel Braga told Reuters: "This is a good offer for the club, and words cannot describe what it represents to Conca. It will allow him and his family financial security in just two and a half years. This offer will put him in the top ten highest-paid players in the world."

Conca began his career at Argentine side River Plate but, following a series of loan spells around South America, the 28-year-old found his natural home in Brazil with Fluminense, where he was voted Brasileirao player of the year in 2009 and 2010.

Swedish beauty swaps shirt with fan

Josefine Oqvist swaps shirts with a fan at the Women's World Cup
Other / YouTubeJosefine Oqvist swaps shirts with a fan at the Women's World Cup

One cheeky fan at the Women's World Cup bagged himself the best souvenir a man can get this week when he persuaded Sweden forward, and pin-up girl, Josefine Oqvist to swap shirts with him at the final whistle of their Group C victory against North Korea.

Oqvist wandered over to the stands and started chatting with supporters in the front row when one fan unexpectedly whipped off his Germany top and proffered it to the 27-year-old for the end-of-game exchange that's traditional in the men's game. Oqvist accepted and whipped her top off.

The Linköpings FC forward, who then gave the fan a kiss on the cheek, posed for Swedish men's magazine Slitz in 2004 in an FHM style-shoot.

Incidentally, Sweden's 1-0 win was the 2003 finalist's first opening-game victory in the history of Women's World Cup - thanks to Lisa Dahlkvist's 65th-minute goal.

Riquelme to get naked on Copa pitch

Remember Larissa Riquelme? The South American model who promised to pose nude if Paraguay won the World Cup but got her kit off anyway after they fell to eventual winners Spain at the quarter-final stage? Well, you'll never guess what she has promised to do if La Albirroja win the Copa America.

That's right! The lingerie model will bare all once again if her home nation is victorious in Argentina, and probably even if they're not.

"If Paraguay win the Copa America then I shall pose nude on the pitch," Riquelme told AFP, shortly before her team drew 0-0 with Ecuador in their opening game. "I think we'll do well at the Copa."

Riquelme, who has graced the front covers of numerous gentleman's publications including Playboy, tried her hand at acting, alongside former Mexico international Cuauhtemoc Blanco, in a Mexican TV drama last year but it seems her vestiphobia has returned.


Video of the week

After Australia were denied the most obviously penalty in the history of obvious penalties against Equatorial Guinea at the Women's World Cup there was only ever one contender for video of the week. To see Bruna catch the ball in the most blatant handball of all time, click here. .


More than words...


FIFA president Sepp Blatter meets with Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe to discuss corruption.©AP


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