By Peter Smith.
Rumours are circulating in the Czech Republic that Sparta Prague could be set to sell their prize asset, the 20-year-old 'wonderkid' Tomas Rosicky. Sparta have revealed that the financial cost of their early exit from the Champions League will be high, and that the Prague giants are heavily in debt.
Sparta finished bottom of their first-round group below Arsenal, Lazio and Shatkar Donetsk, and received only three million dollars for their troubles--roughly half of last season's total. The club was forced to sell some of its best players over the summer, easing debts by some 10 million dollars.
Miroslav Pelta, Sparta's managing director, defended the sales by saying "Sparta are going through a difficult transition. We want to have a healthy economic situation, which is just as important to us as good results."
A simple solution would be to cash in on Rosicky. The club has already refused offers of up to $22 million for the attacking midfielder, but many observers expect that the youngster could be on his way before the end of the season.
In spite of their European failure, Sparta are still forging ahead at the top of the Gambrinus League. Coach Ivan Hasek is also looking to strengthen his squad, and according to reports has made enquires about the availability of Ostrava's Under-21 striker Milan Baros. The 19-year-old has been earmarked as a future star, a tag that his present employers are keen to exploit. Ostrava have slapped an $1.3 million price tag on Baros, more than twice the existing national transfer record, a move that has so far deterred the Czech champions.
All top match officials in the Czech Republic have been demoted in reaction to a series of high-profile refereeing blunders over the last few weeks. Their place will be taken by a collection of lower-league officials, who will get a chance to stake their claim after the Gambrinus League returns from its winter break in March. Ludek Macela, the chairman of the Referees' Commission, told reporters that he had torn up the original officials list claiming "I will choose people whom I sense want to improve the quality of the league."
Finally, Teplice's impressive 3-1 win at Chmel Blsany means that the North Bohemian have cut Sparta Prague's lead at the top of the Gambrinus to a measly nine points.
Click here for all the Gambrinus League results, plus the league table.