x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Euro 2012: Van der Vaart brushes off Schalke interest, Arbeloa plays down Barca-Real rift

News from the Spanish, Dutch and Italian camps plus a clairvoyant elephant in the build-up to Friday's kick off.

Rafael van der Vaart playing against Polish students. Pawel Ulatowski / Reuters
Rafael van der Vaart playing against Polish students. Pawel Ulatowski / Reuters

Happy at Spurs

Rafael van der Vaart, the Dutch midfielder, has poured cold water on reports the German league side Schalke want to sign him by insisting he is happy to stay with the English Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur. Van der Vaart, who is with the Holland squad preparing for Saturday's opening Euro 2012 Group B match against Denmark, has two years left on his Spurs contract.

"There is always interest, but I am happy in England and want to stay," he told German Sky Sports. Meanwhile, Van der Vaart's teammate, the Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar, has announced he is leaving the London club to join Ukrainian top-flight side Dynamo Kiev.

Astori to Italy's aid

Davide Astori, the Cagliari defender, was summoned to Italy's Euro 2012 base in Poland yesterday given the doubts about the fitness of Andrea Barzagli. Italy will wait until tomorrow's deadline for replacements to decide whether to keep Barzagli in the squad after he was all but ruled out of the group stage with a calf problem.

Elephant's prediction

Paul the amazing clairvoyant octopus may be dead but now he has a worthy heir, a Polish-based Indian elephant named Citta. English-born but German-based Paul went down a storm during the last European Championships and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with 12 correct predictions from 14 attempts.

Krakow-based Citta has taken over the baton and correctly predicted the outcome of the Champions League final. Having beaten off competition from a parrot called Kuba and Black Mary the donkey, Citta made her first prediction yesterday for the opening match by picking a melon marked Poland.

No el clasico rift

The Spanish squad is united and not riven by a split between Real Madrid players and those from Barcelona said Alvaro Arbeloa, the Real defender.

The 29 year old - a member of the Spanish squads that won both Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup - denied the Barcelona midfielder Xavi's assertion last week that there was an underlying bitterness between the two camps.

"Relations between all of us here is very good. We know how to differentiate between the relations at club and national level where we all share a common goal: to defend our European title," said Arbeloa.

Given a chance

Shay Given, the Ireland goalkeeper, is ready to "play tonight" if required, according to the goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly. Fears grew over the fitness of the 36-year-old stopper when he played just 45 minutes of Ireland's 0-0 draw with Hungary in Budapest on Monday.

The Aston Villa player was taken off at half time and there were fears of a recurrence of his knee injury. He sat out the team's open training session on Monday but Kelly said he wanted to take part, adding: "Shay is fine."