Morning Ticker: FIFA's Plan B for 2010, Blatter enters Cristiano Ronaldo fray and Barca signs Hleb

Morning Ticker: FIFA's Plan B for 2010, Blatter enters Cristiano Ronaldo fray and Barca signs Hleb

European Soccer

Morning Ticker: FIFA's Plan B for 2010, Blatter enters Cristiano Ronaldo fray and Barca signs Hleb

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Sepp Blatter didn’t really surprise anybody when he said he had a back-up plan in case South Africa could not host the 2010 World Cup,  but when the FIFA president came out and said he had three countries lined up as potential replacements, you couldn’t help but wonder if FIFA might be ready to pull the plug on South Africa being the host.

Blatter was careful with his wording, stating that the back-up plans would kick in only if a "natural catastrophe" took place that prevented South Africa from being able to host the event, but that was enough to leave the soccer world speculating on whether FIFA is preparing to pull the plug on South Africa 2010.

So what three countries might be in the mix to be Plan B? Germany, which did a great job of hosting the 2006 World Cup, has to be considered a candidate, while the United States is clearly capable of hosting the tournament on short notice. I saw Australia reported somewhere as a potential candidate but I just can’t see that happening.

I asked U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati about this a week ago, when Blatter first made comments about a back-up plan, and Gulati wasn’t touching the subject, but based on speeches Gulati has made to the media regarding the United States’ ability to host a World Cup, it is safe to say that U.S. Soccer believes it can do as good a job as anybody of hosting the World Cup on short notice.

Should South Africa be worried? It will all depend on how the 2009 Confederations Cup goes. Blatter didn’t say it in so many words, but reading between the lines you could basically assume that the Confederations Cup tournament will determine whether FIFA feels comfortable with South Africa being able to handle hosting the World Cup. If it fails that test, then the scramble will be on.

Blatter likens Ronaldo-Man U situation to slavery

As if the Man U-Real Madrid battle over Cristiano Ronaldo weren’t already dramatic enough, now Sepp Blatter has stepped up to provide his two cents (and usual ridiculous statements) to the conversation.

The FIFA president equated Manchester United’s unwillingness to sell Ronaldo to a form of modern-day slavery, essentially putting his foot in his mouth for about the 20,000th time during his reign as FIFA president.

"I think in football there’s too much modern slavery in transferring players or buying players here and there, and putting them somewhere," Blatter said. "We are trying now to intervene in such cases. The reaction to the Bosman law is to make long-lasting contacts in order to keep the players and then if he wants to leave, then there is only one solution, he has to pay his contract."

Blatter failed to point out that A) Ronaldo recently signed a contract extension with Manchester United and B) Ronaldo makes more money than any slave in the history of human civilization.

Blatter also urged Manchester United to sell Ronaldo if Ronaldo wants to leave, saying that FIFA is always in support of the players in matters like these. No word on Blatter’s take on the New England-Preston North End tug of war over Taylor Twellman.

Barcelona set to sign Hleb

After loading up on defensive players this transfer period, Barcelona took the first step toward bolstering an offense that struggled at times last season with the addition of Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb. Barca is set to pay a $26.3 million transfer fee for the Belarusian. That’s a pretty big price to pay for a team that has yet to sell Ronaldinho or Samuel Eto’o.

So what do you think of the World Cup 2010 situation? Would you like to see the United States step up? Want to see Germany get another shot? What do you think about Blatter’s comments regarding Cristiano Ronaldo? Is Hleb going to be a star for Barca? Share your thoughts on these stories in the comments section below.

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