To Russia for Love

KEITH BRADFORD -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

Money can buy you a whole lot of Love in soccer these days.

And with oil now flowing as freely as vodka in Russia, that's exactly what three of Moscow's top teams are doing.

Flush with the proceeds from lucrative oil company sponsorship deals, they've been snapping up some of the world's best talent - most notably the Brazilian Vagner Love, who signed for CSKA.

The biggest revelation isn't that some of South America's finest have agreed to swap sun-kissed beaches for subzero temperatures and a substandard league - although the multimillion-dollar transfer fees mean they'll never be short of sweaters and fur hats.

It's that this new cocktail of eastern European discipline and South American flair is not just surviving in the most unlikely of places - it's thriving.

CSKA in particular, currently sitting above Euro champs Porto in their Champions League group, have sent a clear message to Europe's elite clubs about their ambitions with a series of Love-inspired wins.

"I don't care about the weather. I have got my family over here now and I am trying to learn Russian so that I can joke even more with my teammates," Love was quoted as saying in the Guardian newspaper.

"I'm really happy here at the moment and I chose CSKA because I wanted to play in the Champions League and I will do my very best for the club. But I'd love to play for a big European club eventually, and then you have to play well in the Champions League to get noticed."

Brazilian players, famed for their silky skills and dribbling ability have long been coveted by Europe's richest clubs.

And Love's 49 goals in 65 matches for Brazil's Palmeiras made him a prime candidate for a move to Italy or Spain.

But many believe Brazilians have traditionally struggled with both the cold temperatures and the team work ethic in places like England's Premiership, for example.

And that fact, allied to Love's reputation for being a playboy, made his move to Moscow all the more unlikely.

"It isn't a secret that I like women, and that I take care of how I look, but that doesn't mean I can't focus on my football as well," he said.

To Love's credit, despite discovering that Russian women are in fact "very, very beautiful," that's just what he's done.

And the Moscow experiment/fairy-tale continues. From Russia with Love.

BECKS A BAD INFLUENCE ...

England captain David Beckham's revelation that he purposefully got himself booked against Wales has had all the tabloids calling for his head. And his captaincy. But not necessarily in that order.

It's true that Beckham's antics on and off the field have become something of a national embarrassment in the Old Country.

But with England captains of yesteryear falling over themselves to remind everyone what wonderful role models they were back in the '60s - or whenever the heck they last played the game - the debate has turned into a farce.

Beckham's still got skill but he's lost his pace, influence and apparently much of his desire. And he's never been a great role model.

So strip him of his captaincy, because there are plenty of better candidates who would benefit from the extra responsibility.

Not because he keeps tripping over his huge ego and ending up with his foot in his mouth.


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