Dutch were onside

Ruud van Nistelrooy's opening goal in the Netherlands' 3-0 win over Italy at the European Championship was correctly awarded by the referee, UEFA said Tuesday.

Van Nistelrooy was at least a yard closer to goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon than any Italy defender on the field when he deflected teammate Giovanni van Bronckhorst's shot into the net in the 26th minute Monday in Bern, Switzerland. However, Italy defender Christian Panucci had collided with Buffon and lay outside the field next to the goal when Van Nistelrooy scored.

"The goal was not offside because in addition to the Italian goalkeeper, there was another Italian player in front of the goal scorer. And even though that player at the time had actually fallen off the pitch, his position was still relevant for the purposes of the offside law," said UEFA general secretary David Taylor, quoting Law 11 in soccer's rule book to justify referee Peter Frojdfeldt's decision to award the goal.

"This is a widely known interpretation of the offside law among referees, but it's not generally known among the wider football public."

Taylor said the law has to be applied this way: "If you didn't have this interpretation, then what could happen is the defending team could use the tactic of stepping off the pitch deliberately to (force) players offside, and that clearly is unacceptable."<

Taylor said a similar incident occurred in a Swiss league match between Sion and FC Basel last season, causing the Swiss media to quickly realize that Monday's score was a valid goal.

"They understood the situation entirely clearly because they had this discussion about a month or two ago," Taylor said. "So, the Swiss media was very quickly onto this and said, 'No, no, this goal was entirely, correctly, and validly awarded."'

Italy striker Luca Toni received a yellow card from Frojdfeldt for complaining about the goal. Taylor said the player's caution would not be rescinded, and that high-profile examples of the offside law like this will serve to educate.

"This goal was controversial because most people are not aware of the law — and I would extend that to many people in the football world, including players — but there is no real debate here," Taylor said. "The goal was valid, the dissent was not."

Legitimate pursuit

Real Madrid has acted within the rules by declaring an interest in signing Cristiano Ronaldo, team President Ramon Calderon said after Manchester United complained to world soccer's ruling body FIFA.

"There is no proof of any wrongdoing because there hasn't been any," Calderon told reporters in Madrid on Tuesday.

It's the latest jousting over the 23-year-old Ronaldo, who was voted player of the year by his peers in the U.K. the last two seasons and, according to France Football magazine, is soccer's fourth-biggest earner.

Manchester United said on its Web site yesterday that Real Madrid had "continued to involve itself in the future" of the Portuguese winger. It declined to disclose the content of its letter of complaint to FIFA.

United "is within its rights" to complain to FIFA, Calderon said.

FIFA rules prohibit teams approaching a contracted player without permission from his club. Calderon said that Real Madrid hasn't held talks with Ronaldo.

"We haven't interfered and we won't interfere," Calderon said.

Spanish and U.K. media are closely tracking Real Madrid's interest in Ronaldo. For most of the last three weeks, Spanish sports newspaper Marca has carried the saga on its front page.

Eto'o tussle

Chelsea faces a tussle with former manager Jose Mourinho, now in charge of Inter Milan, for Barcelona's Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o, the Sun reported.

The Blues are set to move for Eto'o after agreeing to sell Didier Drogba to AC Milan for 18 million pounds ($35 million) and will bid 22 million pounds for the 27-year-old and offer him a 110,000 pounds-a-week contract, the paper added.

Mourinho and Inter Milan are also targeting Eto'o after failing to sign Drogba, the paper said, adding that Chelsea is also targeting Valencia forward David Villa.

The Sun also said Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will interview former Inter coach Roberto Mancini and ex-Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard for the position of coach this week. Portugal's Luiz Felipe Scolari is another candidate, the paper added.

Ronaldinho closer

Ronaldinho is closer to agreeing to a 200,000 pounds-a-week deal at Manchester City after Barcelona gave the Brazilian permission to move to the English Premier League team, the Telegraph reported.

City owner Thaksin Shinawatra has made the former World Footballer of the Year his chief target after installing Mark Hughes as manager last week, the paper said.

Talks took place in Brazil at the weekend to expedite the move for the 28-year-old, who is also a target of Chelsea and AC Milan, the Telegraph added, noting that City and Barcelona have yet to agree on a fee for the player.