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Volume 10 No. 25

People and Pop Culture

MARIO BALOTELLI is "on his way out" of Manchester City after a deal was struck for the Italian to join AC Milan, according to Mark Ogden of the London TELEGRAPH. AC Milan will pay a transfer fee of around £20M ($31.5M) for the Italian int'l. The Milan Channel announced, "Mario Balotelli to Milan, the player will come tomorrow (Wednesday) for his medical and sign his contract." Balotelli will join Milan ahead of Thursday's transfer deadline, thus ending a "remarkable two-and-a-half year stay" with Man City during which time the forward has "attracted almost as many headlines for off-field incidents as success on it" (TELEGRAPH, 1/29). In London, David McDonnell reported despite publicly insisting he still had faith in Balotelli, Man City Manager ROBERTO MANCINI and the club's board "decided to cut their losses and cash in on the maverick Italian." Balotelli has scored just one Premier League goal this season and "finally snapped Mancini's patience with a woeful performance in last month's Manchester derby" (DAILY MIRROR, 1/29).

DROGBA ON THE MOVE: The PA's Guy Aspin reported DIDIER DROGBA is "relishing the chance to have another crack at the Champions League" after agreeing to a return to Europe with Turkish side Galatasaray. The former Chelsea striker "agreed to join the Turkish giants" from Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua on an 18-month deal. His representatives revealed on Twitter that Drogba would join his new side following the Africa Cup of Nations, and Galatasaray confirmed the deal on its official website (PA, 1/29).

BECKHAM SIGHTED: The PA's Matt McGeehan reported Arsenal Manager ARSENE WENGER confirmed DAVID BECKHAM is "training with Arsenal" at its Hertfordshire training base. Wenger said, "He called me. (It's) purely for fitness. there's no speculation about signing or anything" (PA, 1/29). Wenger said, "We get nothing out of it, just to help somebody who we think deserves it and has made great service for English football" (REUTERS, 1/29).

Chinese tennis player LI NA "is the most popular person in China again thanks to her resurgence at the Australian Open," in which she finished second, according to Tang Zhe of the CHINA DAILY. CCTV-5 Dir JIANG HEPING revealed that Li's battle for the Grand Slam title on Saturday reached a 7.57 market share, and a total audience of 18 million. Li wrote a message on her Weibo account, which is China's version of Twitter, after the game, "and the message has been forwarded more than 60,000 times within a day" (CHINA DAILY, 1/29). WANT CHINA TIMES noted Shanghai's First Financial Daily reported Li reaching the final "dismissed earlier worries among her sponsors." An exec "from a mid-range sports brand" said: "I believe in the next one to two years, Li Na's commercial value still has room for growth" (WANT CHINA TIMES, 1/29).

Argentine FA President JULIO GRONDONA will step down in '15 after 36 years in the job. The 81-year-old senior FIFA VP, who has been "widely criticised for the way in which he has run the AFA," will not seek re-election for the first time since he came to power in '79 (REUTERS, 1/29). ... German Hockey League (DEL) club Hamburg Freezers appointed former O2 World Hamburg Dir of Sales OLUFEMI SMITH as head of sponsorships. The 33-year-old took on his new position on Jan. 2 and succeeded ALEXANDER AMIRI (Hamburg Freezers). ... South Korea-based Halla Group Chair CHUNG MONG-WON was elected as the 22nd president of the Korea Ice Hockey Association. Chung is "well-known as an ardent advocate of ice hockey." He founded the Mando Winia Ice Hockey Team, then the Anyang Halla Ice Hockey Club in '94 "when the sport had little recognition" within the country and led it for 18 years until November (KOREA TIMES, 1/28).

COACHES/MANAGERS: Scottish Premier League club Dundee United is "set to appoint" Scottish First Division club Partick Thistle Manager JACKIE MCNAMARA to the same role. A decision on the position, which was vacated by PETER HOUSTON after the weekend's draw with Ross Count, is expected Wednesday (Scotland DAILY RECORD, 1/29).

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Dutch Crown Prince WILLEM-ALEXANDER "is quitting the IOC as he prepares to become king." The Dutch government said in a statement: "The prince has asked the president of the IOC to relieve him of his duties as IOC member in the Netherlands." Willem-Alexander, "an avid sports fan," has been an IOC member since '98 (AP, 1/29). ... Former Brazilian national basketball team coach ARY VIDAL died on Monday in a Rio de Janeiro hospital at the age of 77 (ESPN BRASIL, 1/28). ... Barcelona President SANDRO ROSELL revealed that striker LIONEL MESSI will sign a contract extension "next week" to stay with the club through '18 (MARCA, 1/28).

London Telegraph's PAUL KELSO: "Arsenal decision welcome for supporters but hard to see how board could sanction any increase given mood/performances this season #AFC"

London Daily Mail's MATT FORTUNE: "Been told to write a 200-word blob on my David Beckham man crush. That flush you can hear is my career disappearing down the toilet...."

London Telegraph's BRENDAN GALLAGHER: "To use the technical expression the shit is just about to hit the fan for a number of high profile sports and sports stars #fuentes #puerto"

Manchester Evening News' MIKE KEEGAN: "A despairing scream of 'NO!' has just rung out at Manchester town hall as news of Mario's departure hit the traffic wardens' room. #mcfc"

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