Perez plays down Ronaldo spat amid revenue surge

Perez, who has splashed hundreds of millions of euros of the European champions’ cash on top players in recent years, said the loyalty of Ronaldo, the current World Player of the Year, had been “unquestionable”.

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The Portugal captain made headlines on Monday when he said the club’s transfer dealings in the latest window would probably have been different if he had been in charge.

After winning a record-extending 10th European crown last season, when dressing-room heavyweight Ronaldo was the team’s top scorer, Real sold midfielders Xabi Alonso and Angel Di Maria and brought in Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.

The departure of Alonso to Bayern Munich, in particular, has prompted suggestions the Madrid club will not have enough quality and experience in midfield without him, while Argentine Di Maria is seen as close to Ronaldo.

“I have no doubt that he (Ronaldo) did not want to question the club’s policies,” Perez told a news conference announcing 2013-14 income of a record 603.9 million euros, a 10.9 percent jump compared with the previous season.

“He has just presented me with a replica of his ‘Ballon d’Or’ award, an exemplary player,” the construction magnate added. “There are no disagreements, zero.”

Real stuttered in their second La Liga outing at the weekend when they let slip a 2-0 lead and crashed to a 4-2 reverse at Real Sociedad.

Ronaldo, 29, missed the game through injury and he followed up his comments on Monday by giving an interview to a British newspaper in which he appeared to suggest he wanted to return to former club Manchester United at some point in his career.

Perez, who pushed through a lucrative contract extension for Ronaldo in September last year that ties him to the club until 2018, defended Real’s decision to sell Alonso and Di Maria.

DIFFERENT EXPECTATIONS

“His (Di Maria’s) reason … was that he had financial demands that we could not meet,” Perez told reporters.

“Real Madrid made him the best possible offer … but he had different expectations.

“No player in the team has that kind of salary, only Ronaldo, who is the best player in the world.

“If we had accepted … it would have put the club’s financial stability in danger.”

Perez said he had a “very good relationship” with Alonso, who will turn 33 in November, and the player had asked to leave.

“He believes the best way to organise his remaining years of professional life is what he has chosen, both for him and for the club.”

Alonso’s position controlling play in midfield was well covered by Kroos and Asier Illarramendi, he added.

Real’s latest financial figures also showed a post-tax profit of 38.5 million euros, up 4.4 percent on a year earlier, and a drop in net debt of 21 percent to 71.5 million.

The performance suggests they will top Deloitte’s ranking of the world’s richest club’s by income for a 10th consecutive year when the business services firm publishes its updated list early next year.

(1 US dollar = 0.7715 euro)

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer)

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Mercedes play down suggestion of line-up change

The Austrian was clarifying comments made in a BBC radio interview when asked what might happen if the pairing of championship leader Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton proved too hot to handle.

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The two team mates and Mercedes are the talk of Formula One after Rosberg, who leads Hamilton by 29 points with seven races remaining, hit Hamilton’s car at the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago.

Speaking at the Italian Grand Prix, Wolff said the context was “what would happen if we could not get on top of the situation.

“We are very happy with the line-up of the two drivers and we’ve always said that. We trust them and we had a very good discussion with the two of them, a very clear discussion,” he added.

“My statements were about what would happen if we couldn’t get on top of it and this is something obviously which is a very, very worst case vision and I don’t think that we were ever going to get there.”

Speaking to the BBC earlier in the week, Wolff had said that “We would have to take decisions and take the consequences of having a different line-up” if the pair continued to clash.

A study by London City University’s Cass Business School revealed this week that having “two top drivers competing in the same team had a detrimental effect on their individual performance”.

After looking at all races between 1981 and 2010, the authors declared that “putting two roosters in the same henhouse” only eroded the individual performance of team members.

In 2007, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen won the title after McLaren refused to favour Fernando Alonso over Hamilton and ended up with both drivers level on points and the Finn one ahead.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo has won the last two races for Red Bull, his triumph at Spa coming against the odds after Mercedes had started with both their drivers on the front row and expected to finish one-two.

Ricciardo is now 35 points adrift of Hamilton and third overall, with an outside possibility of snatching the title from under the noses of the Mercedes drivers.

“It’s obviously going to take probably more than just winning the next seven races. It’s going to have to take a bit of luck as well,” Ricciardo told reporters at Monza.

“I’m more than two wins behind Nico so if I come out and win two and he DNFs (does not finish), he’s still leading. So we’ll see. Obviously there’s more talk about it now but to be honest I’m not really thinking about it.”

(Editing by Rex Gowar)

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Hamilton suffers electrical gremlins at Monza

The Briton, who retired from the race in Belgium 12 days ago after team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg hit the back of his car, missed an hour of the afternoon running as mechanics replaced sensors on his car.

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Hamilton was still fastest overall on the day, with a best time of one minute, 26.187 seconds set before lunch. Rosberg was top of the afternoon timesheets with a best of 1:26.225, just ahead of his team mate.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to have the full session tomorrow and get some good running,” said Hamilton, who has had more than his share of mechanical problems this season while Rosberg has motored on.

“Monza is quite an important circuit to put the car at the front as it’s very difficult to overtake here. It would be great to have a trouble-free qualifying tomorrow.”

Jenson Button, Hamilton’s former team mate at McLaren, was second fastest in the morning in 1:26.810 with Rosberg – who has never been on the Monza podium – pushed back to third in 1:26.995.

Hamilton is 29 points behind Rosberg in the championship with seven races remaining and is determined to claw his way back against his German rival, who was punished by the team for the Spa collision.

“I didn’t feel 100 percent confident in the car, so I can’t be happy with today and I have a lot of work to do tonight with the boys,” said Rosberg.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest in both sessions at the fastest circuit on the calendar, with team mate Kimi Raikkonen third in the afternoon.

“That was a very busy day, but a positive one. We made the most of every minute available to us in both sessions,” said Raikkonen, who has never won Ferrari’s home race.

Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was fifth in the second practice after a quiet morning and Button was sixth for McLaren, who last won a race in 2012.

Red Bull’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, last year’s winner at the ‘cathedral’ of Italian motorsport, was sixth and seventh while Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo was 16th and 10th.

Ricciardo, as good as Italian to many of the home fans and chasing his third win in a row, was sidelined for some of the first session with a power unit problem.

“Obviously we want to be a bit further up, but I think we can chip away at it tomorrow, the Mercedes will be quick, but if we can sneak into the top five in qualifying then we’ll have a good crack at the race,” said Ricciardo.

“Getting temperature into the tyres is tricky, especially for the first timed lap.”

At the slow end of the field, Spanish driver Roberto Merhi made his debut appearance at a Formula One weekend and lapped faster than regular race driver Marcus Ericsson in the other Caterham.

Merhi handed the car back to Japanese Kamui Kobayashi, returning after being dropped by the team for Spa, for the afternoon and rest of the weekend.

Spanish reserve driver Daniel Juncadella also had a stint with Force India while Frenchman Charles Pic was handed compatriot Romain Grosjean’s Lotus for the session.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford, Pritha Sarkar and Toby Davis)

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Root spares England’s blushes in consolation victory

Root’s well-judged 113 from 108 balls on his home ground, his highest ODI score, lifted England to 294 for seven off their 50 overs.

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Captain Alastair Cook chipped in with 46 and Jos Buttler fell for a breezy 49 after being run out by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Ravindra Jadeja played well to score a valiant 87 as India stuttered and stumbled during their run chase and were eventually all out for 253 with eight balls remaining.

“Joe Root played fantastically well. He went on and a couple of other guys supported him. That’s what we’ve been trying to do. We’ve got a lot of 20s and 30s in this series and when one of our guys went on and scored a century, we showed we’ve got a bowling attack to defend it,” Cook said at the presentation ceremony.

Man-of-the-match Root, who smashed 10 fours and three sixes, put on 108 runs with Buttler before Dhoni knocked off the bails to break the fifth-wicket partnership after Buttler set off for a non-existent run.

Mohammed Shami ended Root’s entertaining innings in the 46th over when the right-hander flicked the ball straight to Ravichandran Ashwin.

India’s hopes of completing a 4-0 rout got off to a rocky start when they lost Edgbaston centurion Ajinkya Rahane for a duck after he nonchalantly sliced a James Anderson delivery into the hands of Eoin Morgan in the first over.

SOFT DISMISSALS

From then on the visitors struggled to build momentum and they lost wickets at regular intervals, leaving all-rounder Jadeja frustrated as his swashbuckling knock of 87 off 68 balls turned out to be in vain.

The left-hander was last man out, clean bowled by Steven Finn in the penultimate over as he tried to score runs quickly in a bid to reach three figures in an international for the first time.

“We gave away too many wickets. There were quite a few soft dismissals and we were not able to score the number of runs we were supposed to. We are capable of getting 90-100 in the last 10 overs, but soft dismissals let us down,” Dhoni said.

Despite the defeat, India will be buoyed by their 50-overs performances in England as they look to fine-tune their game before beginning the defence of their World Cup title in February.

England, however, face an uphill task if they are to get their hands on the 50-overs World Cup, a trophy they have never won.

They have won only one series against another test-playing nation since 2012 and have lost their last four at home.

Their consolation victory has done little to paper over the cracks that run deep in England’s approach to the limited-overs format which some former players have labelled as old-fashioned and out of date.

“We know what we can do and it’s been really frustrating for the last few games that we’ve not been able to do it. One good game in four isn’t good enough,” Cook, who many pundits believe should step down as ODI captain because he is ill-equipped to prosper as a batsman in the limited-overs game, told the BBC.

“We now have a massive chunk of one-day cricket where we can concentrate on improving as players. The last time we had a focus like this we got to the Champions Trophy final (in 2013). The World Cup preparation will be perfect and hopefully we can all improve.”

(Writing by Pritha Sarkar in London, editing by Ed Osmond)

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F1 is dead? Protest banner provides a talking point

“Ugly new circuits, ugly cars, no engine sound.

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F1 is dead,” it declared.

The protest, handwritten in blue and red ink on a white sheet, was still there long after practice for the Italian Grand Prix had finished and the fans gone home.

The irony of someone buying an expensive ticket, at one of Formula One’s oldest and most atmospheric racetracks, in order to declare a lack of interest was not lost on those in the garages opposite.

“I don’t think that one banner sums up the overall opinion about Formula One,” said Ferrari principal Marco Mattiacci, while others made light of it.

“Whose garage was it opposite? McLaren?,” joked Red Bull’s Christian Horner.

“I think I recognise people from Formula E (the new electric series starting next week) putting that banner there,” laughed Lotus deputy principal Federico Gastaldi. “This is a fantastic race, it’s history. Come on.”

“It seems a very strange place to talk about ugly circuits,” agreed Marussia’s John Booth. “One of the most iconic circuits we go to.”

If there is one place on the Formula One calendar where the true, original spirit of the sport lives on, then Monza would be high on most people’s lists along with Spa, Silverstone and Monaco.

The old banking, disused since the 1960s when the track featured in the climax of the 1966 John Frankenheimer directed movie ‘Grand Prix’ with the late James Garner and a cast of drivers of that era, remains a place of pilgrimage for many.

The Ferrari ‘tifosi’ still swarm through the turnstiles, trudging through the wooded park outside Milan and flooding the finish straight after the race in a red tidal wave of national passion.

And the racing this season has, by general consent, been thrilling with Mercedes team mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in a duel for the title.

Yet the banner reflected the feelings of those followers who feel the sport, with its new and quieter V6 turbo hybrid engines and energy recovery systems and races in ever more exotic locations, no longer excites.

Ferrari are not winning as before either, with the glory days of Michael Schumacher a distant memory, and the sport struggles to make the front pages of even Italy’s soccer-obsessed Gazzetta dello Sport daily.

Former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore articulated some sympathy with unhappy fans when he visited the circuit as a guest of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, himself a vocal critic of the new engines.

“It is a new F1. Maybe it is better, but a lot of people don’t understand. It is as simple as that,” he said.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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