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Saturday, July 14, 2012

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Big jump: Shinji Kagawa sits with Manchester United manager Alex Fergsuon at a news conference Thursday at Old Trafford. AFP-JIJI

Kagawa confident he can adapt to Premier League

AP

MANCHESTER, England — Japan playmaker Shinji Kagawa labeled his move to Manchester United as the greatest challenge of his career Thursday, describing the pressure of playing for such a high-profile club and adapting to the Premier League as significant tests.

The 23-year-old Kagawa, who is United's first ever Japanese player, signed a four-year contract at United to move from Borussia Dortmund, which won the Bundesliga and German Cup double last season.

"I'm a member of a great club at Manchester United," Kagawa said Thursday. "I think I can handle the pressure and am pretty confident I can adapt to the style of the Premier League."

United manager Alex Ferguson enthused about Kagawa's record in scoring 21 goals in 49 appearances for Dortmund since joining in 2010 from home club Cerezo Osaka.

"We shouldn't be looking at one player changing the way we play, but he could make a difference," Ferguson said. "If his goal-scoring record continues, he could be a very good player for us."

The Japan international, who will wear the No. 26 shirt at United, was presented Thursday alongside Nick Powell, the 18-year-old midfielder signed from third-tier club Crewe Alexandra.

Powell has represented England at youth level and scored a memorable goal in Crewe's 2012 playoff final victory over Cheltenham Town at Wembley Stadium in May.

Ferguson may not be done yet with signing players with more than six weeks left in the transfer window, saying "we could possibly bring one or two more in."

Meanwhile, Ferguson confirmed that Darren Fletcher is struggling to overcome a bowel complaint that has kept him out of action since December 2011. The 27-year-old midfielder has ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.

"He has obviously got great challenges ahead," Ferguson said. "We are happy to be patient but he won't be starting the season."

Man United begins its Premier League campaign at Everton on Aug. 20.

Blatter goes on defense

AP

GENEVA — FIFA president Sepp Blatter defended his role in a World Cup kickback scandal on Thursday, after his former boss Joao Havelange was formally identified for taking millions of dollars in payments from marketing deals.

FIFA published a Swiss prosecutor's report on Wednesday confirming that Havelange accepted kickbacks in the 1990s during Blatter's 17-year stint serving him as FIFA's top administrator.

Asked if he knew Havelange took kickbacks from disgraced marketing agency ISL, Blatter said "commission" payments were legal in Switzerland in the 1990s.

"I can't have known about an offense that wasn't even one," Blatter said in a question-and-answer sequence conducted by FIFA and published on its website. "Back then, such payments could even be deducted from tax as a business expense. Today, that would be punishable under law.

"You can't judge the past on the basis of today's standards."

Blatter acknowledged he was the senior FIFA figure identified in the dossier as "P1," who "would also have known" that a $1 million payment from ISL to Havelange was mistakenly transferred into a FIFA account.

Questions to Blatter failed to address his role in FIFA's attempts to ensure a criminal probe into possible embezzlement by Havelange and long-time FIFA executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira was dropped.

The report revealed that, in 2010, FIFA paid $2.77 million compensation to settle the ISL case only after insisting that proceedings against the two Brazilian officials were dropped.

Teixeira, the former son-in-law of Havelange, received at least $13 million from ISL between 1992-97.

Payments "attributed" to accounts connected to Havelange and Teixeria totaled almost $22 million from 1992-2000, Swiss prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand wrote.



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