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Batistuta asked legs be cut off to relieve pain

Batistuta asked legs be cut off to relieve severe pain; urinated in bed with toilet steps away
The Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Former star Gabriel Batistuta, Argentina's record goal scorer for the national team, says he once asked a doctor to amputate his legs to relieve intense pain in his ankles.

Batistuta, speaking in a television interview in Argentina, said the pain suffered after retiring in 2005 became so intense that he "urinated in bed with the toilet only a few steps away. I couldn't move."

Batistuta said he visited a doctor he knew, who turned down his request.

Balotelli in line for Liverpool debut at Spurs

After impressing in training, Mario Balotelli is line for Liverpool debut against Tottenham
The Associated Press

LIVERPOOL, England - Mario Balotelli is in line to make his Liverpool debut against Tottenham on Sunday after impressing manager Brendan Rodgers in the Italy striker's first practice sessions with his new club.

Rodgers says Balotelli "has settled in very well and has looked fantastic in training. . He is engrossing himself into the club and the people, but more importantly into his football."

On to Burnley, Van Gaal needs a Man United win

Winless after 3 games, including cup rout, Van Gaal needs upturn in United fortunes at Burnley
Rob Harris, The Associated Press

LONDON - From the World Cup semifinals to a bruising introduction in Britain, Louis van Gaal's fortunes have changed rapidly inside two months.

The coach who led the Netherlands to a third-place finish at the World Cup enters his fourth match as Manchester United manager still searching for his first win.

Michel Platini won't run against Sepp Blatter

Michel Platini opts out of election fight against Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency
Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press

MONACO, Monaco - Michel Platini won't fight Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency, though he still hopes somebody will.

The UEFA president decided Thursday not to challenge Blatter in an election next May, insisting he was not dodging a battle with his former mentor.

Platini denied FIFA critics a potentially bitter contest, but then urged more conflict within the Blatter-led executive committee.

Real Madrid gets Liverpool in Champions League

Real Madrid gets Liverpool in Champions League; Bayern Munich to face Manchester City again
Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press

MONACO, Monaco - European greats Real Madrid and Liverpool will meet again in the group stage of the Champions League after a draw on Thursday that promised many reunions.

Aiming to be the first club to retain world football's most coveted club trophy for 25 years, the road for ten-time winner Madrid leads to five-time champion Liverpool on Oct. 22.

Don't expect miracles from Di Maria, Van Gaal says

Man United manager Louis van Gaal warns not to expect instant miracles from Angel Di Maria
Steve Douglas, The Associated Press

MANCHESTER, England - Angel Di Maria will provide an ailing Manchester United with plenty of missing qualities following his big-money move from Real Madrid — pace, energy, incisiveness and goals.

Just don't expect instant miracles from the Argentina midfielder.

"I hope he shall give us good results," Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said at Di Maria's official presentation on Thursday, "but we cannot expect after two days' training that he is the miracle what I already read.

Despite 'baggage,' Rooney made England captain

Wayne Rooney to captain England, leading team into European Championship qualifying
Rob Harris, The Associated Press

LONDON - Despite an often tempestuous relationship with fans and past concerns over his temperament, Wayne Rooney has received the symbolically-prestigious honour of captaining England.

Taking over the leadership of an inexperienced squad that is recovering from the national team's worst-ever World Cup, Rooney knows the rebuilding process requires unity.

"I hope that I will have the full backing of the fans," Rooney said Thursday. "I am their type of player once I am on that pitch."

Champions League draw wide open

From Madrid and Barcelona to Monaco and Roma, Champions League draw promises tough groups
Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press

MONACO, Monaco - Real Madrid's Champions League title defence takes shape Thursday at one of the most open draws in years.

Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea — the past four winners — are among the eight top-seeded clubs in the 32-team draw.

However, lower-ranked seeding pots loaded with big spenders returning to the Champions League after years away promise to deliver trickier than usual groups.

Bulgarians win CL shootout with defender in goal

Ludogorets beats Bucharest in shootout with defender in goal to reach Champions League
Rob Harris, The Associated Press

LONDON - Bulgarian club Ludogorets reached the Champions League group stage for the first time Wednesday when a defender saved two penalties in a shootout after the team's goalkeeper was sent off late in extra time.

On a night when Arsenal, Athletic Bilbao and Bayer Leverkusen all qualified for Europe's top competition, Ludogorets centre back Cosmin Moti upstaged everyone with his heroics in Sofia.

Villa, QPR humbled by lowly sides in League Cup

Premier League sides Aston Villa, QPR eliminated by lowly opponents in League Cup
The Associated Press

LONDON - Premier League sides Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers followed Manchester United in being beaten by lower-tier clubs in the League Cup on Wednesday.

A day after United's surprising 4-0 loss at MK Dons, another third-tier club, Leyton Orient, won 1-0 at Aston Villa, and fourth-tier side Burton edged past QPR by the same score.

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