FRANCE HAVE pulled out of the controversial Confederations' Cup against the wishes of Fifa, world football's ruling body, but to the delight of leading European clubs.
"We decided to pull out of this competition because we did not want to send to Mexico a team which would not have been the one which won the world title," the French Football Federation president, Claude Simonet, said. He suggested that France would instead play a friendly against "an English team" some time in February.
The eight-nation Fifa-organised competition has been heavily criticised by both clubs and a number of countries because of its timing in the middle of the European league season. "I think it was a wise decision," Arsenal's French manager, Arsene Wenger, said. Fifa backed down in September in the face of the opposition, allowing clubs to release their players just 48 hours ahead of the start date to reduce the inconvenience. But this failed to satisfy the clubs who pay the players' huge wages. Chelsea's chairman, Ken Bates, said this week: "I think it is a waste of time and I will not be releasing my players. "If Fifa try to impose sanctions they will be ignored," Bates added. "The tournament is another one they have dreamed up from nowhere. It's got nothing to do with promoting football." The tournament in Mexico, from 8 to 20 January, will involve Brazil, Bolivia, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, New Zealand and the hosts, plus whichever European team replaces France. Lee Bradbury could be playing for Manchester City or Crystal Palace today. City's record buy is in Joe Royle's City side for the First Division game with Reading - but Terry Venables, the Palace manager, is trying to finalise a deal to put the striker in his team at Bradford City instead. Because of a change in transfer rules, Bradbury can join Palace on loan by noon and still make his debut today before completing a pounds 1. …