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Comeback kings, tiny dynamos and a Polish mystery

Published: Friday 13 January 2012, 11.02CET
Our weekly round-up of the great and good returns with some fearsome minnows, a homecoming Arsenal FC hero and news of a new candidate for the French presidential election.

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Published: Friday 13 January 2012, 11.02CET

Comeback kings, tiny dynamos and a Polish mystery

Our weekly round-up of the great and good returns with some fearsome minnows, a homecoming Arsenal FC hero and news of a new candidate for the French presidential election.

Player: Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
So incredibly talented that you almost get sick of writing about him, the mercurial Argentinian comes up as a candidate for star player in Pick of the Week so often that UEFA.com considered banning him from this section. Once more, however, he has set tongues wagging this week as he collected his third successive Ballon d'Or. "I'm going to share this with Xavi," he added. "It's the fourth time we've been here in Zurich; it's a great pleasure to play alongside him. Xavi, you deserve the trophy just as much as me. Without you I wouldn't have won and I want to thank you for being such a good friend." Brilliant and modest. On grounds of fairness, he is definitely banned from now on.

Goal: Thierry Henry (Arsenal FC)
In aesthetic terms, there were probably better goals this week than Henry's typically sharp winner against Leeds United AFC in the FA Cup, but for sheer drama, it could not be matched. On the bench for his old club for the first time since concluding a two-month loan from New York Red Bulls, the 34-year-old came on to win the game with his 227th Arsenal strike. "I never thought I'd play for Arsenal again or score a winner," said an emotional Henry after the game. "I love the club, and hopefully I can do more. I hope it won't be my last goal." Not a dry eye in the house.

Team: CD Mirandés
After knocking out Villarreal CF in the previous round the third-tier side were at it again this week, clinching a 1-1 second-leg draw that was enough to see them past Real Racing Club 3-1 on aggregate and through to the Copa del Rey quarter-finals for the first time in their history. The minnows had to show character to hit back after Pedro Munitis scored in the first half. Fortunately, bank manager Pablo Infante converted a late penalty – his fourth goal in the competition – to keep the dream alive. "We train every day except for Tuesdays, which means a lot of kilometres of travel with the car between training, work and home," Infante said. "But to have a job in this economic climate is a privilege."

Quote
"I cannot tell you how we are going to do it. I will not give our formula away, even to UEFA.com. It is like Coca-Cola – no one from outside the firm can know the recipe."
WKS Śląsk Wrocław captain Sebastian Mila refuses to tell UEFA.com how his side will complete their bid for the Polish title

Number: 8 
Eight sides are yet to drop a point at home in their domestic leagues this season, with Manchester City FC topping the list – despite losing two successive cup games at the City of Manchester Stadium. AZ Alkmaar, GNK Dinamo Zagreb, PFC Levski Sofia, PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv, FK Partizan, SL Benfica and Panathinaikos FC also boast impregnable fortresses.

Candidate: Eric Cantona
Not only is 2012 the year of the UEFA European Championship but it also heralds the French presidential elections, in which, as it turns out, Eric Cantona wishes to run. Despite being an actor, a beach soccer organiser and general manager of New York Cosmos, the former Manchester United FC forward clearly feels he has enough time in his schedule to make room for running the country he represented as a footballer on 45 occasions. "As a committed citizen, I am soliciting you for your signatures in order for me to take part in the political debate in which the country is engaged," wrote Cantona. "My aim is to gather at least 500 supporters."  If he were running for mayor in Manchester he'd be a shoo-in.

Ice king: Heidar Helguson (Queens Park Rangers FC)
QPR have been going through a rough patch in the English Premier League, changing manager at the weekend, but there has been some good news, with striker Heidar Helguson having been named as sports personality of the year in his native Iceland. The 34-year-old, who famously changed his surname in honour of his mother Helga, credited his family for keeping him grounded. He said: "I have three sons which gives me a steady life at home; it is important to me that no matter what happens in the football career, life at home remains the same. I have to get up in the morning to take them to school and that keeps me grounded. Some players are always in the media; I do not make any headlines – no one is very interested in me driving my boys to school."

Youth club: AFC Ajax
After Ajax's Eredivisie game against AZ Alkmaar on 21 December was abandoned when a supporter attacked visiting goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado, the Amsterdam club were told to replay the match behind closed doors next Thursday. However, in a move that echoes a recent match in Turkey, played before an all-female audience, the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) have agreed to Ajax's request for children only to be allowed at the match, with free tickets being distributed to schools and sports clubs. With 14,000 youngsters already having applied to come to the match, Ajax captain Jan Vertonghen is pleased with the enthusiasm with which the offer has been greeted.  "I hope that a lot of kids, and especially noisy ones, will come to the ArenA. Especially ones from Amsterdam."

Line manager: Hristo Stoichkov
Bulgarian footballing legend Stoichkov was in the spotlight again this week as he returned to coaching with PFC Litex Lovech. The defending Bulgarian champions are well off the pace in the race for this season's title, and have moved to reignite their campaign by employing the former FC Barcelona and PFC CSKA Moskva star, who has yet to dazzle in previous coaching spells with Bulgaria, RC Celta de Vigo and South African side Mamelodi Sundowns FC. However, if the 45-year-old was feeling the pressure, it did not show. "I have nothing to prove to anyone," he said at his unveiling last Friday. "Maybe only to God."

Distinguished service: David Jeffrey (Linfield FC)
Finally, a salute Jeffrey, who last weekend celebrated 15 years in charge at Linfield, during which time he has been Northern Ireland's manager of the year eight times and won eight league titles and six national cups. "I spent ten years at Windsor Park as a player and captain and now I have completed 15 years as manager," said the 49-year-old. "I have spent more than half my life working for this club, but it has been a massive honour and a privilege." Complacency, though, is not in his nature. "Now if you lose a game, people talk about a 'crisis at Windsor Park'," he added. "People don't judge you on the last trophy you won, it is the next trophy and the one after that. The job doesn't get any easier."

Last updated: 05/12/13 19.31CET

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