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There used to be a joke among the Manchester press corps that the day ManU Manager ALEX FERGUSON quit "we would all meet for a party" and "toast to his departure," according to Matt Dickinson of the LONDON TIMES. We would "remember all the bans, foul tirades, evasions, downright lies and collectively exclaim 'thank God he’s gone.'" However, "there will be no celebrations today because deep down, even as he pinned us to a wall and spewed rage over a perfectly true story or threw us out of Old Trafford with a Glaswegian 'f*** off', we knew that we were lucky to be working up close to one of the most extraordinary men in football and a personality so vast that British sport may not see its likes again." It is "not really the trophies that make Ferguson so remarkable, however much silverware he has won." It "is his character." In every part of his nature -- "the relentless drive and energy, warmth and anger, generosity and nastiness, vast ambition and grip on every detail -- he has dominated British sport on a scale that can only be looked upon with awe" (LONDON TIMES, 5/8). In London, Simon Kuper wrote despite his success, Ferguson "never kidded himself that he knew everything." He "always kept learning." He spent hours each day on the phone, sucking information from ex-players and fellow managers." His "enormous network extended far beyond football." Each contact "was nurtured till death." For Ferguson, "knowledge was power" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 5/8). Also in London, Simon Barnes commented, "Sir Alex Ferguson. Bloody hell, I never thought he’d do it. Even now I’m reluctant to acknowledge his retirement, afraid that he’ll sneak back and win the title next year and prove me wrong. Again." Barnes continued, "Is he the most significant person in the history of English football? Sir WALTER WINTERBOTTOM, Sir ALF RAMSEY, BILL SHANKLY, BOB PAISLEY, BRAIN CLOUGH as managers, Sir STANLEY MATTHEWS, BILLY WRIGHT, BOBBY MOORE, Sir BOBBY CHARLTON, GEORGE BEST, DAVID BECKHAM as players. Certainly Ferguson is on that list and maybe at the top of it" (LONDON TIMES, 5/9).
ONE LAST TIME: In London, Daniel Taylor wrote when ManU takes on Swansea City Sunday, a 58-year-old man named PETE MOLYNEUX "will lift up an old bed-sheet just as he did, infamously, in December 1989 when Alex Ferguson's back was pressed against a cold, unforgiving wall." The message back then "was short and to the point." The banner read: "Three years of excuses and we're still crap, ta-ra Fergie." It "has gone down in history, the nadir of Ferguson's reign." Molyneux, like many ManU supporters, "expects to be holding back the tears during Ferguson's 1,500th -- and last -- game in charge." His banner will read: "Twenty-three years of silver and we're still top, ta-ra Fergie." His legacy is "as solid as the stadium where his statue -- long overcoat, match-face, strict side-parting -- now rises behind the stand they named after him." His resume includes 13 "league titles for United, two European Cups, two Intercontinental World Cups, one European Cup-Winners' Cup, five FA Cups, four League Cups." Does "the Community Shield count?" There were "10 of them" (GUARDIAN, 5/8).
PAYING TRIBUTE: Tributes from notable football figures poured in Wednesday.
- DAVID BECKHAM: "The boss wasn’t just the greatest and the best manager I ever played under, he was also a father figure to me."
- Man U great BOBBY CHARLTON: "He is such a fantastic manager. He is a sensational person in every form and I am really delighted for him."
- ManU CEO DAVID GILL has hailed working with Ferguson as the "greatest experience" of his working life. Gill said, "The way he cares for this club, his staff and for the football family in general is something that I admire. It is a side to him that is often hidden from public view but it is something that I have been privileged to witness in the last 16 years."
- ManU Joint Chair JOEL GLAZER: "Alex has proven time and time again what a fantastic manager he is but he's also a wonderful person. His determination to succeed and dedication to the club have been truly remarkable."
- ManU Joint Chair AVI GLAZER: "I am delighted to announce that Alex has agreed to stay with the club as a director. His contributions to Manchester United over the last 26 years have been extraordinary and, like all United fans, I want him to be a part of its future."
- UEFA President MICHEL PLATINI: "He is a true visionary and I hope that, having helped us in the past through various coaching initiatives, he will continue to collaborate with UEFA to share his fantastic knowledge with the next generation of up-and-coming European coaches who all wish to emulate his achievements in the sport" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 5/8).
- EPL CEO RICHARD SCUDAMORE: "The Premier League has had the privilege to witness many great players, managers and teams. No one has made as great a contribution to the Premier League than Sir Alex Ferguson" (EPL).
- FA Chair DAVID BERNSTEIN: "Sir Alex Ferguson's achievements are truly remarkable -- he is genuinely one of the greatest managers of all time and certainly of the modern era. His contribution to English football has been outstanding in every regard and, in The FA's 150th year, it is something that should be celebrated "(SKY SPORTS, 5/8).
- Sports Minister HUGH ROBERTSON: "His enthusiasm for our national game is boundless and I congratulate him on a remarkable managerial career'' (SKY SPORTS, 5/8).
- Barcelona's SERGIO BUSQUETS: "Ferguson is a coach who will always be remembered. His retirement is a loss for the football world. All the things he won and that he always stayed at the level of the best Coaches is amazing" (FOOTBALL ESPANA, 5/8).
- Barcelona's DANI ALVES wrote on Twitter: "It is like removing a myth of football. He is the kind of professional that helps make this occupation meaningful! Thanks Sir Alex Ferguson" (Twitter).
- Professional FA Chair GORDON TAYLOR: "The game of football will be a lot poorer place without him. He has been quite simply the best" (THE NATIONAL, 5/8).
- Former ManU player LOUIS SAHA tweeted: "WOW, Ferguson s'en va. J'espère que sa santé est OK. C'est l'homme le plus important dans ma vie après mon père." ... ("WOW, Ferguson leaves. I hope his health is OK. This is the most important man in my life after my father. I have a huge respect for this football god.") (L'EQUIPE, 5/8).
Epic Pictures Group is developing a Rocky-style movie version of the life of Barcelona footballer LIONEL MESSI. The company has acquired all rights to the biography “Messi: The Inside Story of the Boy Who Became a Legend” by Luca Caioli. Epic will finance and produce the film. Epic CEO PATRICK EWALD and COO SHAKED BERENSON "are meeting with writers and directors with a projected release date to coincide with next year’s World Cup, to be held in Brazil starting on June 12, 2014." Producers "aim to focus on the story of a young boy from humble beginnings in Rosario, Argentina, who overcomes his physical shortcomings to become one of the greatest players of all time" (VARIETY, 5/8).
The senior team that was behind venues and infrastructure at London 2012 has "joined forces to launch Trivandi Major Project Consultants." The int'l firm -- established by JAMES BULLEY, PAUL MAY, GUY LODGE and JONATHAN BRANSON -- "will advise on the delivery of major projects in the sport, event and leisure industries" (LEISURE MANAGEMENT, 5/7). ... Lotus Technical Dir JAMES ALLISON, "one of the most highly regarded design engineers in F1," is to leave the team. Allison has been replaced by NICK CHESTER, "who has been promoted from his role as head of vehicle performance." It "is not known which team Allison will join after leaving Lotus" (BBC, 5/8). ... Former LOCOG CIO GERRY PENNELL "has joined the University of Manchester as its new director of IT" (INFORMATION AGE, 5/8). Pakistan Cricket Board Chair ZAKA ASHRAF on Wednesday "became the country's first elected head of the sport, winning a four-year term under a new constitution approved earlier this year" (PAKISTAN TODAY, 5/8). ... The England and Wales Cricket Board's annual meeting reelected JANE STICHBURY and RACHEL HEYHOE FLINT as independent members to the ECB board and also confirmed the election of RICHARD THOMPSON (Surrey) and ANDY NASH (Somerset) (ECB). ... Dubai Autodrome management announced the appointment of General Manager RICHARD BIRCH. Birch replaces HAMISH BROWN, who left the company at the end of April (Dubai Autodrome).
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Publication "Business Book GP" has revealed the salaries of the drivers presently making up this year's F1 teams, and "the rich kids" of the F1 grid are Ferrari driver FERNANDO ALONSO and his ex-teammate LEWIS HAMILTON. Both "earn the enviable amount" of €20M ($26M) per season. In third place is McLaren's JENSON BUTTON, earning €16M ($21M) a year. Button is followed by Red Bull's SEBASTIAN VETTEL, with €12M ($15M), "although the German's salary is a little more complicated to calculate, as his income is variable, being affected by the number of pole-positions and victories he achieves" (MARCA, 5/7). ... EPL Tottenham midfielder GARETH BALE, who has made a heart gesture with his hands after each of his 26 goals this season, wants to make the gesture into a copyrighted logo. According to the filing at the Intellectual Property Office, "he wants to put the logo, along with the number 11 (his squad number), on shoes, hats, bags, umbrellas and jewelry." Bale filed the trademark on March 26 with help from The Stellar Group Ltd., a sports management company (TELEGRAPH, 5/7). ... NBA Minnesota Timberwolves guard RICKY RUBIO has confirmed that he will play for Spain in the Eurobasket 2013 in Slovenia, which will take place from Sept. 4-22. Rubio: "I said to Juan [Spanish coach JUAN ANTONIO ORENGA] that, if I did not have any problem with my knee, my 'yes' to play in the Eurobasket would be 100%. I feel good, so if he calls me, I will be there" (EL MUNDO, 5/8). ... Brasileiro Fluminense striker MICHAEL "faces a two-year ban" after testing positive for cocaine use. The 20-year-old gave a positive sample after his team's 2-0 victory over Rosende on April 6 (XINHUA, 5/8).
FIFA President SEPP BLATTER: "Just heard Sir Alex Ferguson is retiring at end of season. His achievements in the game place him without doubt as one of the 'greats'."
Real Madrid striker CRISTIANO RONALDO: "Thanks for everything, Boss."
U.K. Prime Minister DAVID CAMERON: Sir Alex Ferguson’s achievement at #MUFC has been exceptional. Hopefully his retirement will make life a little easier for my team #AVFC
Former ManU striker MICHAEL OWEN: "It's just not sinking in! Manchester United with no Sir Alex just doesn't feel right. What a man and great that it has ended on his terms."
AP's ROB HARRIS: "For anyone globally unsure of Fergie's impact in UK - his retirement is leading news bulletins over Queen & the state opening of Parliament"
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