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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bayern Munich's Kahn will retire if his team win Champions League

German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn admitted on Tuesday that he might retire from football if Bayern Munich won the Champions League.

"It is really likely for me to retire the game if we clinched the Champions League trophy this season," German media quoted Kahn as expressing.

In fact, the 37-year-old international, who was the second-choice keeper of the German team that won the bronze medal in the World Cup earlier this year, said he wants to quit on top before people call on him to retire.

What's more, coach Felix Magath told the club's website that he wants to give Kahn's long-term successor as competitive matches as possible.

"We all know that Rensing is Kahn's designated successor for us, so I believe he needs match practice when there's something at stake. I have complete faith in him," he stated.

And now it's fair to say that during his 12-year career with the Bavarians, Kahn won seven league titles and one Champions League trophy.

In the most important moment of his career, he led Germany to the final game of the World Cup 2002 before losing to Brazil. Though, he was named FIFA's best footballer of that Cup.

Great encounters to take place in the next stage

Current champions Barcelona were pitted against England's Liverpool Football Club in a meeting of the Champions League winners of the past two season as the draw for the first knock-out stage of the competition threw up a series of attractive clashes.

The catalan team, who were among the second seeds in the draw in Nyon, Switzerland, will be pleased to be avoiding some of this season's top favourites, but still face a stern test in the 2005 kings and five-time European champions.

In fact, Barcelona president Joan Laporta expressed: 'It will be a meeting between the last two champions, so it is going to be an great tie.

"I can say that I am happy with the draw. Liverpool are one of the sides I fancied meeting at this stage. They are powerful opponents who play very physical football and have players we know very well, like Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso. But let's not forget, we are the squad to beat this season."

As we know, Liverpool club secretary Bryce Morrison said the clash with Barcelona could be the launchpad for another assault on Europe's top prize.

"They don't come much bigger than that. We are relishing these matches. And we hope we can go all the way once again, starting with this big one."

Furthermore, the draw brought together two familiar foes in record nine-time European champions Real Madrid and German Bayern Munich.

In fact, the two sides have met 10 times in the competition since 2000, with Real Madrid knocking Bayern out in the last 16 in the 2003/2004 season and in the quarter-finals on the way to the 2002 title.

It's important to consider that Bayern Munich did the same to Real in the 2001 semi-finals before beating Valencia in the final for their fourth and so far last title.

And Real Madrid sports director Pedja Mijatovic admitted: "We have had a bit of luck. I think we can be satisfied. Bayern have a strong, battling team but we have the opportunity of going further. Maybe on paper we are the favourites."

But Bayern manager Felix Magath described the meeting with Real as 'a cracking game' and quipped: "I said beforehand it would be Real - I'd arranged it with UEFA."

In another major game, British champions Chelsea - regarded as one of the favourites - come up against Portugal's Porto, pitting Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho against the club he led to the Champions League title in 2004.

As we know, the two clubs met in the 2004/2005 group stage when Chelsea won 3-1 at home and lost 2-1 in Portugal.

What's more, six-times champions AC Milan face Scottish side Celtic while cross-town rivals and Italian league leaders Inter Milan have an intriguing tie against Spanish side Valencia.

Let's mention that of England's remaining clubs in the last 16, last year's losing finalists Arsenal come up against Dutch title-holders and 1988 European champions PSV Eindhoven while English league leaders Manchester United meet French side Lille.

Also important: in the remaining tie, fancied French champions Lyon, regarded as one of the top contenders for this year's title, will have to overcome Roma.

The "Red devils" will be seeking to make good against a Lille team who helped put the Reds out in last season's group stage. United lost 1-0 Lille and were held to a goalless draw at home.

Red coach Sir Alex Ferguson told the club website: "We just had a bad experience last year but this is a different United squad.

Finally, we must keep in mind that the round of 16 matches are to be played over two legs on February 20/21 and March 6/7, 2007. The final game is scheduled for May 23 in Athens, Greece.