Marco Simoncelli: Career Achievements

By the time he arrived on the Grand Prix scene as a 15 year-old Marco Simoncelli already had a wealth of experience and titles behind him, and his entry into the World Championship arena in 2002 was the start of a career marked by success, ambition, determination, some controversy and plenty of admiration as he progressed through the classes to become one of MotoGP’s most recognisable stars by the time of his tragic death on October 23rd 2011.

Growing up in Coriano, some 10km from the Misano World Circuit, Simoncelli spent his youth racing on the Italian east coast and was a frontrunner in the Italian Minimoto Championship from 1996 to 2000 – a competition he won on more than one occasion.

Stepping onto 125cc machinery after his exploits in minibikes Simoncelli was quick to adapt, riding in the Italian National Championship in 2001 and then taking the European 125cc title the following season. It was in 2002 that he made his World Championship debut, riding six rounds of the 125cc campaign before a first full season the next year.

2004 saw the then 17 year-old take his first GP victory – which was also his first podium result and his first start from pole position – when he won at a rain-soaked Jerez on his way to 11th overall in the standings. Simoncelli’s final season in the category in 2005 produced six podiums in total, including another win at Jerez, as he ended the year fifth overall taking further steps forward.

Moving up to the 250cc category for 2006 it took two seasons for Simoncelli to settle in and find his feet, and when he did so it was in stunning style. 2008 did not start in the most encouraging manner as Simoncelli failed to score points in the opening two rounds, but in Round 3 at Estoril he qualified on pole for the first time in 250s and finished the race in second – his first podium in the class. From there, Simoncelli’s season took off in a phenomenal fashion. He took his first 250cc win in his home GP at Mugello, the sixth round of the campaign, and only finished outside the top three on one more occasion on his way to the title. Winning six races and stepping onto the podium a total of 12 times in 2008, Simoncelli was the first Gilera rider to win the 250cc title and became the first man to take the intermediate crown after not scoring points in the first two rounds since Dieter Braun in 1973.

Speculation linked the charismatic new 250cc World Champion with a move up to the MotoGP class but Simoncelli opted to stay and defend his title. He again displayed his fearless riding style as he engaged in a series of great battles, taking the title fight to the final round in Valencia where he eventually lost out to Hiroshi Aoyama. Simoncelli finished the campaign in third, having won six races, and was by now ready to make the step up to the top level.

Pre-season testing for the 2010 campaign was something of a baptism of fire for Simoncelli, who was shaken by a big crash at the second Sepang Test. He was back on the bike for the final Qatar outing however, and then finished his first MotoGP race at the same Losail circuit one month later in 11th place. Simoncelli gained in confidence as his rookie season went on, steadily improving his qualification and race results and ending 2010 with a strong run of notable displays which included fourth in the penultimate round at Estoril, where he was unlucky to miss out on a podium spot.

With a full season’s experience behind him his second year in MotoGP saw Simoncelli get off to a flying start, as he immediately set about converting the promise shown towards the end of 2010 into results in 2011. After a top-five finish in the first round in Qatar, he then crashed out of the Jerez race when leading in only the second race of the campaign. Next time out Simoncelli secured his first second-row start, in Portugal, and a first premier class pole position came shortly after in Catalunya as the excitement surrounding the daring Italian continued to grow.

Another pole followed at Assen but Simoncelli was unable to seal that elusive podium spot that seemed an almost certainty every time he took to the track, something he finally managed at Brno where he took third position in the Czech GP to great acclaim.

Fantastic rides continued to flow as he finished fourth for three races in a row at Misano, Aragón and Motegi, the last of which saw Simoncelli prevail in a toe-to-toe race-long battle with age-old rival Andrea Dovizioso. Just two weeks later at Phillip Island Simoncelli again held off his compatriot in an epic fight to take second place, his best-ever MotoGP result.

Qualifying on the second row for the Malaysian GP Simoncelli was battling with Álvaro Bautista for fourth position in the race when he crashed on lap two, sustaining the injuries which brought to an untimely end a rapidly evolving rider and individual who was hugely admired both on and off the track.

Marco Simoncelli’s World Championship career:

2002: 125cc World Championship – 33rd position on an Aprilia, 6 starts, 3 points

2003: 125cc World Championship – 21st position on an Aprilia, 15 starts, 31 points

2004: 125cc World Championship – 11th position on an Aprilia, 13 starts, 79 points, 1 win

2005: 125cc World Championship – 5th position on an Aprilia, 16 starts, 177 points, 1 win

2006: 250cc World Championship – 10th position on a Gilera, 16 starts, 92 points

2007: 250cc World Championship – 10th position on a Gilera, 17 starts, 97 points

2008: 250cc World Championship – 1st position on a Gilera, 16 starts, 281 points, 6 wins

2009: 250cc World Championship – 3rd position on a Gilera, 15 starts, 231 points, 6 wins

2010: MotoGP World Championship – 8th position on a Honda, 18 starts, 125 points

2011: MotoGP World Championship – 6th position on a Honda, 16 starts, 139 points

Chelsea fined 20K

Chelsea have been fined £20,000 by the Football Association after admitting a charge of "failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion" in last week's Barclays Premier League match against QPR, the Football Association have confirmed.
The fine was imposed after Chelsea players surrounded referee Chris Foy following Jose Bosingwa's red card during the 1-0 defeat at Loftus Road.
The FA announced the fine on Friday in relation to the incident and they also asked Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas to explain his post-match comments to the media about Foy and the assistant referees.
The FA said they are still considering Villas-Boas' response and have yet to decide whether to take any action.

AVB praises Chelsea spirit

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas felt his team had survived a good test of character after an extra-time win at Everton in the Carling Cup on Wednesday night.
Daniel Sturridge put the Londoners into the quarter-finals with a winner after 116 minutes of a remarkable tie at Goodison Park in which both sides had a man sent off and missed a penalty.
Villas-Boas, whose first-choice side were reduced to nine men last weekend, said: "We were very committed, we showed resilience and strength of character once again."
He added: "We went down to 10 men, unfortunately, once again and made things even more difficult but we were able to triumph in difficulty and these are good signs for us.
"We got one of the most difficult draws, Everton away with one of their strongest sides. They showed they wanted to go through this phase but we were able, not only to play good football, but show good commitment at desire."
Everton boss David Moyes felt the result was harsh on his team but was not looking for excuses.
The Scot said: "I don't think we deserved to lose. Certainly over 90 minutes we should have won the game. We have only got ourselves to blame for not winning it in 90 minutes.
"It is one of those things that happens. Someone has got to win, someone has got to lose and we lost this time.
"When it was 11 v 10 I thought the worst we were going to get was a penalty shoot-out.
"When it went to 90 minutes, both teams looked really tired but I thought the boys did well."

Mancini wants more from Johnson

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini is demanding more from Adam Johnson despite the England winger playing a key part in the 5-2 Carling Cup win at Wolves.
Johnson scored the equaliser and created the second goal for Samir Nasri as City booked their place in the quarter-finals with five goals in a 27 minute spell but Mancini believes the former Middlesbrough player can still do better and was critical of his role in Wolves' second from Jamie O'Hara.
He said: "Sometimes he thinks, 'Okay, in this game I scored one goal, I did an assist, that is enough.' I think Adam, because he is young, can improve a lot. He needs to think in a different way."
He added: "He needs to think, 'I scored one goal, I did one assist, I should continue because I want to score another goal and another assist, and run back to defend'.
"He can do this if he wants. My opinion is this, he has everything to become one of the top wingers."
Mancini added: "Adam is young, he is in his third season in the Premier League. I am disappointed when he doesn't put everything on the pitch. Tonight he played well, but for the second goal Wolves scored, he never followed his opponent. Adam is the only one winger we have in the team.
"He cannot play every game, it is impossible, but if he wants to improve, he can have a lot of chances to play."
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy took consolation from their performance, saying: "That was an abject lesson in finishing. But I was pleased with our performance.
"That sounds crazy when you've just been beaten by five, but I was happy.
"We started well, and deserved the lead. The fact we didn't hang on to the lead was nothing to do with defending badly. They [City] are all top players. They won't be made to work harder than they were tonight, that's for sure."

Chelsea set to win vote on ground

Opponents of Chelsea's bid to buy back the freehold of Stamford Bridge were bracing themselves for defeat in the vote to decide its future.
An increasingly-bitter campaign between those who support the club's plans to re-acquire the land they sold to fan-led group Chelsea Pitch Owners in the 1990s and those who oppose it will draw to a close on Thursday during an extraordinary general meeting at the Blues' home ground.
Both sides have waged a public relations war in a bid to rally support for their cause since Chelsea first announced their proposal on October 3. The plans were immediately seen as a precursor to a move to a new 60,000-seater stadium, something that could help the club better compete in terms of matchday revenue with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal under the constraints of Financial Fair Play.
Chelsea have insisted they have not yet decided whether to relocate but say they need to have the ability to sell the land on which Stamford Bridge sits before negotiating with developers at any new site - with Earls Court, Battersea and White City all possible destinations.
While not opposed in principle to a move, those against the buyback proposal - spearheaded by the 'Say No CPO' (SNCPO) campaign - have accused the club of not giving enough notice of the vote, a lack of transparency, and have demanded that the existing CPO agreement be transferred to any new ground.
Chelsea have insisted they have been open and transparent throughout and believe the threat which led to CPO's formation - a fear of the club being made homeless by property developers - has disappeared forever because the Blues are now worth more than any land a stadium would occupy. Both sides have spent the past three weeks attempting to woo CPO shareholders as well as encouraging their supporters to buy up as many shares as possible.
Indeed, the last week before trading was suspended saw more than £200,000 spent on the £100 shares - around 10% of the entire shares in issue - with more sold during that period than during the previous seven years. SNCPO fear most of those have been bought by those with loyalties to the club and they were not optimistic about the outcome of the vote.
A spokesperson told Press Association Sport: "Around £250,000 worth of shares were sold in the last week before they went off sale. My assumption would be that most of them are yes votes."
Chelsea were taking nothing for granted, insisting they had no idea how the vote would go on Thursday. The outcome will be determined by the number of owners of the near 18,000 shares who turn up or vote by proxy, with SNCPO confident of a guaranteed 1,000-1,500 supporters worth around 3,000 votes.
Their spokesperson added: "The individual shareholders are with us, most of them, the people with one, two, three shares."

Terry: I'll clear my name

Chelsea and England captain John Terry has vowed to clear his name after the Football Association launched a potentially-devastating investigation into allegations that he racially abused QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.
The FA announced on Tuesday night that it would look into claims that Terry allegedly aimed a racial slur at Ferdinand during Sunday's west London derby at Loftus Road. Terry has denied verbally abusing the 26-year-old, but should the FA, or worse still, the police, deem otherwise the decision could have a ruinous effect on the defender's future in the game.
Terry was in a bullish mood on Tuesday night, however, and vowed to clear his name, saying: "I welcome the FA enquiry and look forward to clearing my name as soon as possible. Until then I have no further comment."
Terry had issued a statement after the match denying he had racially abused Ferdinand and the two players met in the away dressing room after the match so the England international could explain his version of events.
Ferdinand appears not to have been satisfied with the Chelsea man's explanation, however, with the FA confirming it had been asked to look in to the allegations.
"Queens Park Rangers Football Club does not condone racism in any way, shape or form," said Hoops chairman Tony Fernandes in a statement on his club`s official website, backing his player. As a club, we will provide our players with our unequivocal support when alleged incidents like this occur."
Kick it Out chairman Lord Herman Ouseley is particularly worried about the effect another racism investigation will have at grass roots level so close to similar racism claims Patrice Evra made against Luis Suarez - accusations the Uruguay striker denies.
Lord Ouseley said: "It is of great regret that in Kick It Out's 'One Game, One Community' weeks of action, backed by all 92 professional clubs, two high-profile incidents of alleged racist abuse have taken place.
"This is worrying and potentially very damaging; what happens at the top end of the game has an impact at grass roots level and at parks pitches across the country.
"Kick It Out condemns discrimination in any form and hopes matters are investigated properly."

Five-year deal for Hernandez

Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez has signed a new five-year contract which will keep him at Old Trafford until the end of the 2015/16 season, the Barclays Premier League champions have announced.
The Mexico international made a stunning impact after arriving in England last season, with 20 goals in all competitions, and United have responded to both that and recent speculation linking the player with Real Madrid by tying him down to a long-term deal.
Hernandez said: "Playing for Manchester United has been a dream come true for me. I never expected my first year to go so well and I'm delighted to commit my future to United. To win a title and appear in a Champions League final was fantastic. I'm looking forward to helping my team-mates as we bid to win more trophies for this great club."
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson added: "The last player I remember making an impact as big and as quickly as Javier is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and he reminds me of Ole a lot. His talent for creating space in the box and his finishing ability mark him out as a natural goalscorer.
"Off the pitch, he is a pleasure to manage. He works very hard and is a popular member of the squad."
The news comes as a welcome boost for a United side smarting from Sunday's 6-1 hammering at home to rivals Manchester City.

Simoncelli's team withdraw from next race

Gresini Racing will withdraw both its MotoGP and Moto2 teams from the season finale at Valencia in the wake of Marco Simoncelli's fatal accident at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Team boss Fausto Gresini also said his organisation would miss the end of season tests which follow as they struggle to come to terms with Simoncelli's death.
The Italian had joined Gresini for his first season of MotoGP in 2010, and after a breakthrough 2011 had agreed to stay with the team for next season despite Honda initially pushing him to move to the works team.
"The only certainty is that my team won't participate in the upcoming Valencia Grand Prix and in the tests programmed after the race," Fausto Gresini is quoted as saying by Corriere dello Sport.
"The day after you suffer even more. Everything happened so fast, I'm lost for words. I know our job is dangerous, that risk is part of the game, but you always hope nothing happens.
"When it does happen and you find yourself in the middle of it everything changes, it's difficult to accept it.
"The crash was caused by a sequence of incredibly negative circumstances, the bike that moved towards the inside of the turn instead of the outside, being run over on the widest track of the season.
"I have many images from these two years spent together resurfacing inside my mind. Marco was spontaneous, he would always do what he thought, with a great heart and always radiant. I can't remember him getting angry even once.
"He was always honest with himself and with the others, a guy who loved challenges, and we, his team, were just an instrument to realize his dreams and to unleash his passion."

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Terry gets Villas-Boas backing

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has backed his captain John Terry in the wake of an alleged racist slur against Anton Ferdinand.
Terry was waiting to hear if QPR defender Ferdinand would make a formal complaint about his altercation with the England skipper during Sunday's west London derby at Loftus Road. Terry has categorically denied racially abusing Ferdinand, who he admitted had accused him of making a racist remark but insisted his own response was actually a denial.
Villas-Boas said: "He has put out his statement and we fully back John. John is a player who (represents) this country to the highest level internationally. He is a player of great responsibilities."
He added: "He said to me the incident was a big misunderstanding. That's why he put his statement out straight away. I find it strange when people don't trust the words of a representative from your country."
Ferdinand has yet to come out in support of that chain of events, while the police confirmed they were investigating an anonymous complaint made against Terry.
Villas-Boas claimed Terry and Ferdinand cleared the air in the Chelsea dressing room after Sunday's game.
"Anton was present in our dressing room," he said. "For us, it was end of story and it still is. It's just a misunderstanding and something blown out of all proportion. People who represent this country should have better and fuller support.
"The clubs are in touch with each other. We have full backing for our player. The rest, we have to wait and see."
The Metropolitan Police stated they were "assessing" the complaint against Terry.
A police spokesman said: "We can confirm that police have been notified of an incident on Sunday 23 October involving alleged racial abuse. This is currently being assessed by officers from Hammersmith and Fulham."

Chelsea charged over QPR game

Chelsea have been charged over the behaviour of their players during their west London derby defeat at QPR.
The Football Association also confirmed they had written to Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas asking for an explanation of his post-match comments about referee Chris Foy and his assistants.
The FA said in a statement: "The FA has today charged Chelsea with failure to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion."
Chelsea stand accused of surrounding Foy following Jose Bosingwa's sending off in the first half of their 1-0 loss at Loftus Road. That decision also angered Villas-Boas, who admitted he was "very aggressive" with Foy after the final whistle, later accusing the official of being "card happy" and failing to treat both sides equally.
Villas-Boas stood by his comments, insisting he had said nothing to warrant an FA charge.
The FA statement continued: "This relates to an incident involving Chelsea players surrounding match official Chris Foy, immediately following Jose Bosingwa's dismissal.
"The incident occurred in their Premier League fixture against QPR at Loftus Road on Sunday 23 October.
"Separately, the FA has written to Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas and asked for an explanation on his post-match media comments.
"Villas-Boas has been asked to explain his comments on match official Chris Foy and the assistant referees.
"On both counts, the club has until Friday 28 October to respond."

Balotelli heads firework safety drive

Just days after being forced to flee his burning home after some late-night pyrotechnics that went wrong, Mario Balotelli has emerged as the unlikely face of a firework safety campaign.
The 21-year-old Manchester City star, who scored twice in the 6-1 demolition of Manchester United on Sunday, has denied being responsible for setting off the fireworks which triggered Saturday's blaze.
But he has readily agreed to front a safety campaign warning children of the dangers of fireworks ahead of the annual British festival of Guy Fawkes night on November 5.
"The newspapers got the story wrong about me and the fire at my house," Balotelli was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying on Tuesday.
"I didn't set any fireworks off, it was a friend of mine. I didn't know anything about it until I heard the shouting coming from the bathroom.
"Luckily, nobody was injured, and my friend apologised to me for the damage to my house. It was a really stupid thing for him to do, someone could have been really hurt, and I was really, really angry with him about it.
"It is important message that children should not mess with fireworks. They can be very dangerous if they are not used in the right way. People should follow the firework code."

AC Milan reveal 'passion' for Balotelli

AC Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani has admitted that he has a passion to bring Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli to the club.

The 21 year old Italian forward scored a brace in a 6-1 thrashing over Manchester United on Sunday for City against their fierce rivals. His recent form has not gone unnoticed in his home country.

‘Balotelli is my passion, he's a great player,’ Galliani told Sky Italia.

‘Take him to Milan? Who knows, for now it remains a passion.’

With Balotelli being a self confessed AC Milan fan, he has always been determined to play for the club despite his upbringing with Milan rivals Inter. The forward was once pictured wearing an AC Milan shirt while playing for Inter, a move which caused disruption at his former club.

City are not willing to sell Balotelli having only signed him shortly over a year ago, although a rumoured £40 million has been mentioned it may not be enough to tempt them into selling just yet.

Man Utd 1-6 Man City: Report

Six-up City crush United

Controversial striker Mario Balotelli provided the spark as Manchester City stormed Old Trafford to humiliate rivals Manchester United 6-1.

Hours after more headlines about his off-field antics following a fire at his home, Balotelli struck twice to set up a convincing win for the Barclays Premier League leaders over 10-man United.

Balotelli also won the free-kick which led to a straight red card for United defender Jonny Evans before Edin Dzeko struck twice and Sergio Aguero and David Silva added to the tally.

United claimed a consolation with a fine goal from Darren Fletcher 10 minutes from time but they were ran ragged in the dying moments as City struck three times after the 88th minute.

City's stunning victory not only lifted them five points clear of United and underlined their title credentials but shattered a host of statistics.

In recording only their second win at Old Trafford since 1974, City inflicted United's first home defeat since April 2010 and ended their run of 19 consecutive home league wins.

It left the watching Glazers, United's owners, hoping for better luck as they flew to Wembley by private helicopter to watch their other team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in the NFL tonight.

Balotelli had returned to the side after suspension in midweek as one of six changes.

United showed similar rotation from their Champions League win over Otelul Galati with fit-again defender Rio Ferdinand among those to come in while Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic dropped out.

It was the hosts who made the early running with Ashley Young twice testing Micah Richards down the left, winning a free-kick and a corner.

United threatened again when Young bent in another free-kick but Balotelli was back to head clear.

Wayne Rooney went down in the box under a challenge from Vincent Kompany but referee Mark Clattenburg saw nothing untoward.

Despite their quieter start, it was City who took the lead after 22 minutes through Balotelli.

Silva fed Milner and the midfielder pulled the ball back for Balotelli to place a low, first-time shot beyond the reach of De Gea from 18 yards, finding the right corner.

He marked the goal with self-deprecating humour by lifting his shirt to reveal a T-shirt saying, "Why Always Me?".

United responded but Anderson and Rooney both shot straight at Joe Hart.

United had another good chance when Rooney pulled the ball back from a Young cross but Evans badly miskicked.

Kompany was booked for bringing down Danny Welbeck as United tried to launch another counter-attack but City held firm until the break.

United's problems then increased considerably as Evans was sent off within two minutes of the restart for denying Balotelli a goalscoring opportunity.

Balotelli stayed on his feet until crossing the 18-yard line as Evans pulled back his arm but Clattenburg awarded a free-kick outside the area and then showed the defender the red card.

United survived the resulting set-piece and breathed again shortly afterwards when Clattenburg gave nothing after Richards collided with Anderson and appealed for a penalty.

Another chance came as Balotelli picked out Aguero with a deep cross but the Argentinian failed to connect with a volley and Richards missed the target.

Young went close as United countered but his mishit first shot rebounded off Milner and he was rushed into guiding a second attempt wide.

United applied more pressure with Rooney shooting at Hart again but City made their numerical superiority count with a well-worked second goal for Balotelli just before the hour.

Silva caught the home defence with a brilliant ball for Milner inside the area and Balotelli arrived unmarked to turn in his cross for a sixth goal in five games.

Chris Smalling then made a vital interception in front of goal as Balotelli threatened to grab a hat-trick.

City were in complete control and claimed a third after 69 minutes as Milner played Richards into space on the right and he duly squared for Aguero to slide home from six yards.

Roberto Mancini decided to take off Balotelli with 20 minutes remaining and he left the field quietly to take the congratulations of his team-mates on the bench.

His replacement Dzeko almost scored a fourth City goal within moments of entering the field with a low shot which rolled just wide.

Dzeko had another chance as United were caught out again but De Gea produced a fine save.

United clawed one back as Fletcher curled in a fine effort from long distance but City upped the tempo with three more in the closing minutes.

Joleon Lescott was free to cross at the back post as a free-kick was flicked on and the ball rebounded in off Dzeko.

Silva then broke clear to slide the ball under De Gea before the Spaniard released Dzeko to complete the rout.


Marco Simoncelli tributes

Following the tragic death of Italian MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli on Sunday, those wishing to submit a tribute or a message of condolence to Marco’s family, friends and team may do so at the following link:

Tribute to Simoncelli

Read tributes posted to Marco by clicking here.

MotoGP community pay tribute to Marco Simoncelli

Through various press releases, interviews and media outlets, fellow and former MotoGP riders and teams expressed their shock and sorrow at the tragic death of the charismatic Italian rider at the Malaysian GP on Sunday. Here are some of their statements.
Factory Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, who was not present at the Malaysian GP following a surgery on his finger, published via Twitter: "I don’t know what to say on a day like today ... Only that you will be missed - rest in peace Marco."

Lorenzo’s team mate, Ben Spies, shared: "Super Sic rest easy..."

Nicky Hayden posted: "Sometimes life just don't make sense... RIP #58 you were a star on & off track we all going to miss you."

Cal Crutchlow’s post: "RIP Marco Simoncelli! A great rider and all round nice guy. My thoughts are with all his family & friends. I will never forget today... #58"

Former full time and two time wild card entry this year, John Hopkins, said: "God Speed #58 Simoncelli... Your fighting spirit will live on forever!"

Two time replacement rider this year, Damian Cudlin, shared via Titter: “Terrible news. Marco’s gone. Sad day for motor racing and all the llives he touched along the way. Won’t forget you, mate.”

Kenny Roberts and his family sent the following sentiment: "The entire Roberts Family is deeply sadden by the news about Marco. We wish to send our condolences to his family, friends, fans and MotoGP. We will never forget him!"

Jeff Belskus, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer, shared: "We are deeply saddened at the passing of Marco Simoncelli. He was one of the most charismatic figures in the World Championship and had a fantastic future ahead of him in MotoGP.”

“Marco was one of the most popular riders at the MotoGP event at Indianapolis, as his talent on the motorcycle and his ability to connect with fans both were very special. We extend our sincere sympathies to his family, team and fans."

Fellow MotoGP rider Héctor Barberá said: "I am in shock. We are bike riders and we are aware that there are risks involved with what we do, but we also know that every day our safety is looked after more and more by the organisers. These past few years have seen a huge amount of work done to try and make our job even safer. Despite this, there are moments in which misfortune can lead to tragedy -and we saw this happen today with Marco Simoncelli.”

“Today is another tough day for motorcycle racing. We have lost a great companion, and I will remember Marco as a great rival with whom had some fantastic battles in the past."

Team owner Jorge 'Aspar' Martínez, shared: "What has happened today is immensely sad. It should be said that every Friday before a Grand Prix, the Safety Commission convenes at 5pm with all the MotoGP riders to evaluate safety issues at all Grand Prix circuits. Marco lost the front end and attempted to save the crash, but unfortunately the inertia of the bike took him onto the inside of the corner just when Edwards and Valentino were passing. There was nothing that they could do to avoid him. Today is a tremendously sad day for the entire paddock and for those who love motorcycle racing."

Toni Elías tearfully stated in an interview: “There is nothing I can say…Marco was a unique person – but above all, he was a good guy.”

Karel Abraham and his team released a statement: "The Cardion AB Motoracing team extends its deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Marco Simoncelli, who succumbed to injuries he received in the race at the Sepang International Circuit."

Taka Horio, General Manager of Bridgestone Motorsport Department, released the statement: “Today we are left devastated. Our thoughts and prayers are with Marco’s family at this terrible, terrible time, and with his team. Words can do no justice to the emotion we are all feeling. The MotoGP family has lost one of its bright stars, a genuine character whose larger-than-life persona, charisma and unstoppable spirit were infectious, and we’ve all lost a great friend."

"We worked closely with Marco for his first two years in MotoGP and it was clear that he was a true racer, something he proved again and again this season. Determined to the end, and a great showman. His ascent through the field in just two seasons has been fantastic to watch, testament to his raw talent, ability and dedication to the sport he so loved."

"We remember fondly the tenacity and spirit with which he raced, and he will be sorely, sorely missed.”

Long time friend Valentino Rossi refrained from earlier media interviews, to later publish via his Twitter account: "Sic for me was like a youngest brother. So strong on track and so sweet in the normal life. I will miss him a lot."

Berbatov to fight for place

Dimitar Berbatov is determined to secure more first-team football at Manchester United after rejecting pleas from Bulgaria fans to come out of retirement.

The 30-year-old was the joint-top scorer in the Premier League last season, but he has started only two games for United in all competitions this term.

He failed to even make the bench for last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Liverpool and was an unused substitute for Tuesday's UEFA Champions League win over Otelul Galati in Romania.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has previously insisted Berbatov will get chances to impress and the forward is willing to fight for his place.

"I want to get more chances because I know I can help the team," said Berbatov. "I'll continue to give my best to earn my place in the team."

The Red Devils' game against Galati in Bucharest was attended by several hundred Bulgarian fans, who had travelled to the Romanian capital to plead with Berbatov to come out of international retirement.

Berbatov was surprised by the calls from the Bulgarian fans, but he is not currently planning to make himself available again for the national team.

He added: "I didn't expect such a reaction.

"I can't play for the national team if I'm not playing for my club.

"I would like to thank the fans, it was very pleasant. My team-mates wondered what was happening and I had to explain to them (about the noise)."

Key battles

Manchester United head into the unknown when they tackle Otelul Galati live on Sky Sports. We look at the crucial encounters likely to decide the clash.

Manchester United head into unknown territory when they tackle Romanian title winners Otelul Galati in the Champions League, live on Sky Sports.

The pair have never met before and United boss Sir Alex Ferguson must hope his side can find that winning mentality after back-to-back draws.

Gabriel Paraschiv v Anderson

Veteran midfielder Paraschiv apparently asked for a 30 per cent pay cut last season because his performances were so poor. Anderson will expect to take advantage if the 33-year-old is still the same.

Marius Pena v Nemanja Vidic

Burly striker Pena became the first Galati player to score in the Champions League, although his effort in Basle did not save his side from defeat. After two months out, Vidic may not necessarily have to be at his best to emerge in credit here.

Milan Perendija v Wayne Rooney

Like Vidic, Perendija hails from Serbia but that seems to be where the comparisons end as he has never won a full cap. If Rooney is unleashed he may get rid of some of that Euro 2012 frustration.

Big guns fail to fire

Van Persie continues to score big in Sky Sports Fantasy Football

Robin van Persie was one of the few big names to produce the goods in a weekend where stars struggled to shine in Sky Sports Fantasy Football.

Following a week of speculation over his future, the Dutchman showed his importance to the Gunners with a brace earning them a 2-1 win over Sunderland.

By taking his tally to five goals this season Van Persie has now scored 21 league goals in 2011, the most from any Premier League player, while his 16-point haul makes him Sky Sports Fantasy Football's fourth highest scorer with 50.

Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero remain the biggest scores, with 71 and 69 respectively, but squad rotation and injuries have seen their points hauling halted.

While both the Manchester clubs have maintained their unbeaten starts to the campaign, recent weeks have illustrated the gamble of having one of their marksmen on board with both bosses rotating their frontlines.

While Edin Dzeko, who looked a banker to pick up points in City's clash with Aston Villa, was also benched, it was a similar story for the highest scoring midfielders with David Silva and Nani rested following their international double-headers, while Ashley Young picked up a solitary point.

In contrast, Van Persie's importance as Arsenal's skipper and only their player to score more than once this season, means his is the first name on the team sheet with the added benefit of his set-piece ability aiding his stream of goals.

Pilkington produces

The Gunners captain was, however, not the top scoring player of the weekend as Anthony Pilkington was the unlikely star of the show in bagging 17 points in Norwich's 3-1 win over Swansea.

The winger was the only other player to score twice over the weekend and also picked up Sky Sports' man-of-the-match award to more than double his points tally.

Pilkington now has 32 points, offering great value for his modest price tag of £4.5m, but few reaped the rewards with a mere 0.1% of Fantasy bosses selecting him.

Defender Ricky Martin got the other goal for the Canaries but is hardly likely to be attracting too much interest with his side yet to keep a clean sheet this season.

Defensive dillema

Saying that, it has hardly been easy to find a formidable backline this season with no side keeping more than four clean sheets.

Only two teams, West Brom and Stoke, managed to keep clean sheets over the weekend, with the Baggies' Billy Jones one of only two defenders to reach double figures with an assist in his first appearance of the season.

Blackburn defender Christopher Samba was the other with his header earning Blackburn a point at QPR and him the man-of-the-match award.

In the middle of the park, Adam Johnson and Chris Eagles each delivered 15 points with a goal, an assist and man-of-the-match awards apiece.

Matthew Etherington also delivered the goods with two assists helping him rack up 13 points in Stoke's 2-0 win over Fulham.

Let us entertain you

It's been a tumultuous start to the new season for Wayne Rooney. A return to his free-scoring best has helped to push Sir Alex's men to the summit of Barclay's Premier League. But their UEFA Champions League campaign has begun more fitfully, with two draws. And England's qualification for Euro 2012 was overshadowed by Rooney's red card in Montenegro.

"In the Premier League it is more open and the ball is more up and down, whereas in the Champions League it is more about possession and a bit slower. So you do need to think a little more in Europe"
Wayne Rooney
Quotes of the week
After coming off the bench to help secure a draw with Liverpool at Anfield, United now travel to Galati and Rooney offers his thoughts on the magic of the UEFA Champions League, and on the season ahead.

Wayne Rooney: Most players just follow their own routine, as everybody prepares for a big game differently. We'll sometimes be listening to music. Patrice Evra is normally in charge of that. For me, I'll normally have a go on the exercise bike to warm up and just try to stay relaxed by chatting to the other lads, or maybe playing a computer game. The manager will talk to us, reminding us of tactics and things like that, but then he always tells us to go out and enjoy ourselves.

How does his experience help?

Wayne Rooney:The manager has seen it all and been so successful so he knows how to handle the big occasions. He has that presence about him, too. We know we're in good hands when you see him walk into the changing room before a game. But the senior players are a great example, too. You just listen to some of the things they say or the way they do things and prepare for a big game. When you're sat in the changing room next to players like Giggsy, you know that the team will be alright.

What is the most intimidating atmosphere you have ever played in?

Wayne Rooney:Definitely in Turkey. It doesn't matter which team you're playing there, but whenever you play in Turkey you know the atmosphere will be fantastic. It's really noisy and the fans are so passionate. It can be intimidating to play in, but it's brilliant to be a part of. I've played there a few times and it's always the same. You can hardly hear each other. They really enjoy their football.

What are your first memories of the UEFA Champions League as a kid?

Wayne Rooney:What I remember most of all was just seeing the passion in the players. I enjoyed watching the great teams like Real Madrid and Manchester United and AC Milan, but I remember as a kid how when a team won the Champions League it looked like such a special moment. You could see the feeling on the players' faces and what it meant to them. With all the music and fireworks when the winning team gets the trophy, it looked amazing. So for me to play in this competition and to have won it with Manchester United is something I am really proud of.

Do you watch the games when United aren't playing?

Wayne Rooney:Yeah, I love just sitting down and watching. You get some great games in the Champions League and I'm always watching football on TV. There are a lot of goals in the group stage, but in the knockout stages the games start to get a little more tense, so they tend to be more tactical. But that's what makes the competition so special. Obviously I can't watch when I'm playing so I think it's good having the games split across Tuesdays and Wednesdays so we can all get to watch the games - for the fans, and for me too!

The great European teams like Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid have a tradition of playing entertaining football. With so much at stake, do teams still have a duty to entertain?

Wayne Rooney:Yeah, I think as a player you obviously you want to play entertaining football as much as the fans do. We want to play good football, and it's always been a tradition of this club and other clubs like Barcelona. Obviously in some games you know that won't happen and it's more about getting the win. But the manager always tells us to keep playing and to keep going forward. That's the style he and Manchester United will always play. But obviously if you don't play well, you still have to win.

Do you have to adapt your game very much from the Premier League?

Wayne Rooney:In the Premier League it is more open and the ball is more up and down, whereas in the Champions League it is more about possession and a bit slower. So you do need to think a little more in Europe. You need to be patient. As a striker, I know you need to time your runs perfectly because I know I won't get that many opportunities to score, whereas in the Premier League you will maybe get a few more chances as it is a bit more open. Opposition defenders can mark you a lot tighter too, but that is what makes the matches so good to play in. You know you're playing the best in Europe.

What's the secret to winning it?

Wayne Rooney:You need a good squad with strength in-depth because you have to play a lot of games to win the Champions League now. You need to keep the ball well or you will be made to pay, and you need to take your chances when they come along. You always need a bit of luck along the way, too. Obviously we were disappointed to lose in the final last year but we hope we can go one step further this year.

And finally, are you still the king of the computer games at Old Trafford?

Wayne Rooney:We don't play together so much these days, but we do play online. A lot of the lads at the club play online too, but they're on PlayStations and I'm an X-Box man so I tend to play other people. I play online most days and FIFA is my favourite. There was one time I was playing online and somebody found out who I was. I suddenly got hundreds of requests, so I changed my name so nobody can find me. I still play in secret, so a lot of people have probably played me without realising it.

Capello drops Rooney hint

Fabio Capello has dropped a clear hint that England striker Wayne Rooney will be going to next summer's Euro 2012 finals.

England boss Capello has not spoken about Rooney since the Manchester United striker was handed a three-match ban by Uefa for his red card in Montenegro earlier this month.

As it stands Rooney will be ruled out of the entire group stage of the competition in Poland and Ukraine unless the Football Association launches an appeal against the sanction.

Despite the possibility that Rooney might not even get the chance to play in the finals if England fail to progress from the group stages, Capello is planning to include the 25-year-old in his squad.

Speaking at a Club Wembley breakfast hosted at Wembley, Capello indicated Rooney would be part of his plans as part of an observation about the balance of younger players and older ones in his squad.

"The young players are really good and ready to play with the seniors, and the experience of the seniors is really important," said Capello.


"During the games we need some leaders, people that know something.

"Jack Wilshere is incredible because he is so young. We also need the experience of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Scott Parker.
"You need this kind of player, plus Rooney, I hope."

"I am happy with my players. I have a lot of confidence in them. "
Fabio Capello on his England squad
Quotes of the week
Capello highlighted the emergence of the likes of Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge as positives for the future and the Italian believes the overall balance of his squad is far better than when he took charge almost four years ago.

"I am happy with my players," added Capello. "I have a lot of confidence in them.

"There are not many young players in the world who are better than the English ones.

"But you need to wait until the end of the season to understand if they are at the top and ready to play with the seniors.

"We had a gap between the oldest and the young. Now, with people like Wilshere, Jones, (Danny) Welbeck, (Daniel) Sturridge - it's really interesting.

"It will be a really good team for the next Euros."

There has been a lot of focus on England's training preparations for the finals after their preparation for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was widely criticised.

Capello is keen for his players to be refreshed ahead of Euro 2012 and plans to bring the squad together 10 days before next summer's finals rather than the 20 days he used in South Africa.

"The players arrived at the World Cup really tired," noted Capello.

"In the friendly games before we went to South Africa, we won but did not play well, like the games we played to qualify.

"The players were not so fast, not so good. We need to change something at the end of the season to prepare for the Euros.

"I will stay with the players 10 days before the Euros start."


Capello is happy there is a decent gap between the end of the Premier League season and the start of Euro 2012 and he is confident his side will be competitive in Poland and Ukraine if they arrive fit and relaxed.

There is a three-week gap between the Champions League final in Munich on 19th May and the opening game of the European Championship on 8th June almost four from the final game of the Premier League season on 13th May.

"It's really important the players relax after the season because the season here in England is really strong," continued Capello.

"This year will be stronger than last because there will be a competition between five or six teams to qualify for the Champions League.

"Also, I hope some teams all play in the Champions League final and the other Uefa competition. But if we arrive fresh and fit we will be competitive."
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