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Balotelli’s agent blasts Platini over racism call

MARIO BALOTELLI’S agent has voiced his contempt for the way that Uefa president Michel Platini dismissed the Manchester City player’s threats to walk off the field if subjected to racism, amid evidence that the striker was subjected to such abuse during Italy’s 1-1 draw with Spain on Sunday.

Mino Raiola said he had not discussed the abuse with Balotelli but nonetheless expressed his dismay over Platini’s declaration that the 21-year-old would be booked if he carried out his threat to leave the field if subjected to such abuse from the crowd.

“I have to say that the reaction of Uefa to what Mario said was very strange and I would have expected a different reaction,” Raiola said. “Mario has had this problem before and in Italy we have a saying: ‘Racism is ignorance’.

“I can’t say I’m surprised by the reaction, though. I don’t believe Platini has done anything to improve the game or help the position of players – as his reaction to Mario shows.”

Di Matteo the best man for Blues job – Leboeuf

Roberto Di Matteo is the obvious choice to become full-time Chelsea manager next season, according to former Blues defender Frank Leboeuf.

The Italian has emerged as the favourite to take charge at Stamford Bridge again, albeit reportedly on a one-year rolling deal, having guided the west London club to FA Cup and Champions League success after taking over from Andre Villas-Boas as first-team coach on an interim basis in March.

Leboeuf (44) played alongside the Italian during five seasons at Stamford Bridge and believes his old team-mate has all the qualities to continue to bring success.

“He proved in four months that he had knowledge about football and what he did was absolutely fantastic. He used the strengths Chelsea had,” Leboeuf said.

Despite not as yet officially having a new full-time manager in place, Chelsea have started planning for next season with the £32m signing of Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard.

Another big money move for Porto striker Hulk is said to be in the pipeline, while the future of defender Branislav Ivanovic is uncertain, along with Brazilian midfielder Ramires, who has been linked with a switch back to former club Cruzeiro.

Arsenal eye Giroud deal

Arsenal are closing in on Franceance striker Olivier Giroud, according to his club Montpellier. Giroud, who is part of Laurent Blanc's Euro 2012 squad, is thought to command a fee in the region of £13million. The 25-year-old scored 25 goals last season to help Montpellier win the Ligue 1 title, igniting the interest of several top clubs. But Montpellier manager Rene Girard insists it is Gunners manager Arsene Wenger who is leading the chase.

“Arsenal are very interested and Giroud wants to play in England, if Arsene agrees with the president, he will sign for them,” Girard said.

Giroud is to consider his future after Euro 2012 with Arsenal favourites to make their second signing of the summer following the acquisition of Germany marksman Lukas Podolski.

O’Neill: ‘Sess must stay’

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill has emphasised his determination to keep forward Stephane Sessegnon at the club.

The 26-year-old was the Black Cats’ joint top scorer with eight goals in the campaign just gone and was named their player of the season. “You can never tell what’s going to happen over the summer...But there’s no doubt Stephane Sessegnon is a player that we obviously want to keep and we’ll be doing everything we can to do so.”