International News - Issue 208

United Confirm Van Gaal Deal
Manchester United have confirmed Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal will manage the club next season. “Louis van Gaal will take over as manager of Manchester United from the 2014/15 season,” read a statement on the Red Devils’ official website. The 62-year-old has signed a three-year contract at Old Trafford, and will take over the English club after leading Holland at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Ryan Giggs, United’s most-capped player, will be appointed as assistant manager. Following the appointment, Manchester United vice-chairman Ed Woodward said: "In Louis van Gaal, we have secured the services of one of the outstanding managers in the game today. He has achieved many things in his career to date and Old Trafford provides him with a fitting stage on which to write new chapters in the Manchester United story.”

Argentine superstar Lionel Messi has signed a new contract with Barcelona, the club have announced. Barca did not disclose the terms of the deal, but according to reports in Spain, it is worth a record 20million euros per season and ties Messi to Camp Nou until 2018. "FC Barcelona would like to announce that Leo Messi and the club signed a revised contract this afternoon," a statement on the Spanish side's official website read. “The signing took place in the presence of Leo Messi, his father Jorge Messi and the Club President Josep Maria Bartomeu, as well as the sporting vice-president Jordi Mestre and the club CEO, Antoni Rossich.”

Arsene Wenger has confirmed he will extend his stay at Arsenal following their FA Cup success on Sunday. The Gunners came from two goals down to beat Hull City 3-2 in extra-time thanks to Aaron Ramsey’s excellent finish. Asked after the match whether he would stay on at the Emirates Stadium, the Frenchman replied: “Yes, I will. I always said my future doesn’t depend on this, but I wanted to wait and see how it goes.” Wenger feels the result could be the turning point for the Gunners to kick on to greater things. “It’s a turning point in the life of this team. They know they can win. In that way it's very important. It would have been terrible, but we came back. I’ve praised the spirit of this team and I’m very proud of that.” Wenger joined Arsenal in 1996.

Luis Suarez says that he is very happy at Liverpool and that is why he signed the long-term deal with the club in December. The striker has had a great season at the Reds, scoring 31 league goals. The 27-year-old has reiterated how happy he is by saying that he is happy that he secured his future at Anfield. "I signed the contract because I love it here and I'm so happy here," he told Sky Sports News. "If you're not happy here you don't sign any contract. Liverpool's team for me is one of the best in the world because nobody here in the dressing room thinks I am better than another and the people here inside Melwood work very well. I love it here and this mentality I like because maybe in some other dressing rooms I am bigger than you and another bigger; it's difficult for the team-mates to play together on the pitch in something like that."

After a 15-year career with the Catalan club, Carles Puyol has decided to hang up his boots following a recurring knee injury. The 36-year-old Spaniard has only ever appeared in the colours of Barça and earned a reputation as one of the greatest and most loyal defenders in the world of football. Puyol, whose achievements include six La Liga titles, three UEFA Champions League winners medals, two Spanish Cups, and two Club World Cups to his name, bade an emotional farewell to the club he has captained since 2004 in front of his mother, brother, partner and friends. “We tried everything and I’d like to thank the doctors and physics for everything,” Puyol said about his ongoing knee injury. “We’ve not figured out a way to fix it, but I’ve not given up. I’ll lee trying to sort it out but now without the pressure of having to play,” he added. The Word Cup winner with Spain in 2010 also revealed that it is unlikely that he’ll continue as a coach at Barcelona. “I don’t think Ill be a coach, it’s not what I’d like most. Maybe I’ll change my mind, but for now I want to do other things,” he said. Puyol concluded with a heartfelt thank you to his coaches and teammates from over the years. “They taught me so much. I’ve played with the best. It’s the end of an era but there will be more and I hope to enjoy them as much as this one. Thank you all very much and Visca el Barça! [Long live Barcelona!].”

Barcelona have confirmed the appointment of Luis Enrique as their new coach following Gerardo Martino's departure at the weekend. Enrique, who steered Celta Vigo to a creditable ninth-placed finish in 2013/14, has agreed to a two-year contract with the Catalans. He spent eight years at Camp Nou as a player and another three in charge of the club's B team. "The FC Barcelona board of directors have this evening confirmed Luis Enrique Martinez as the new first team coach, following a proposal from sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta," read a Barca statement. "Luis Enrique, 44, will sign a two-year deal." Martino resigned as Barcelona boss after the team relinquished league honours to Atletico Madrid by drawing 1-1 at home on Saturday.

Chelsea striker Samuel Eto’o has hit back at Blues coach Jose Mourinho for calling him out on his age, insisting he will continue playing top-level football. Earlier in the year, Mourinho was caught off camera taking a jab at his striker, saying, “The problem with Chelsea is I lack a scorer. I have Eto’o but he is 32 years old, maybe 35, who knows?” And Eto’o, who turned 33 in March, has hit back at his boss for those comments. Speaking to ahead of the upcoming World Cup the Cameroon international said, “Thanks for informing me that it will be my last World Cup. Today, I am 33 years old. And it is not because a fool called me an old man that you must believe it.” The three-time UEFA Champions League winner, whose contract with his Chelsea ends in June, was happy with his contribution at Stamford Bridge, yet refused to reveal if he will remain in London. “And you may have noticed that the old man was better than the youngsters,” he said. “Some believe I am going to retire in the United States or in the Middle East, but I have regained the joy of the Champions League and I am going to carry on playing in the Champions League. Where? I am not going to tell you.” The prolific front man says he will continue to play as long as his body allows him to, and has set his sights at making the national squad for the 2018 World Cup. "But I am going to carry on playing because physically and mentally I feel great,” he said. “So I am going to go to this World Cup and to the next one when I will be 37. Some did it at 42, so I can still play in two more World Cups."

Star Colombian striker Radamel Falcao says he is unsure whether he will be ready for next month’s World Cup. The Monaco striker has not played any football since undergoing knee surgery in January, yet was still included in his country’s provisional squad for the upcoming Mundial. And the 28-year-old is still uncertain if he will be fully fit in time for the world showpiece. "I don't know yet if I will be ready," Falcao told Canal+. "A decision will be taken in a few days, depending on my physical condition. I am doing a lot better. My health and physical state have improved, my knee is getting better and better. The objective is clear - to recover quickly to take part in the World Cup. That would be fantastic."

There was much cause for celebration in Turin on Sunday as Serie A champions Juventus re-wrote the history books on their way to their third Scudetto crown. The Bianconeri earned a deserved 3-0 win in the season’s last fixture against Cagliari to end the season on a mammoth 102 points – a new all-time record among the top 10 European leagues, beating Benfica’s 1990/91 season tally of 101 points. Juventus also set a record in remaining unbeaten at home for the entire season, while keeping 22 clean sheets in their 38 league fixtures – more than any other club in the top five European leagues this season. And Juve’s talisman Andrea Pirlo, who scored the opener in their 3-0 win on Sunday, was delighted with his team’s record-breaking season, and feels it will be near impossible for any club to replicate their heroics. "We beat every record, amassed 102 points and it will be almost impossible for anyone to repeat that,” the Italy international, who just turned 35, said. "This was an extraordinary campaign and crowned by this victory."

Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba has donated €1-million to the mining disaster in Turkey. Over 300 people have been confirmed dead following an underground explosion at a mine in Soma. Drogba, who plays for Turkish giants Galatasaray, is known for his charitable causes, and he again came to the fore over the weekend. “I am a UN ambassador of goodwill and I will do all that I can to help the people in Soma,” he said. “But I don’t want anyone to use my name. I’m not someone who will promote himself in such issues. I don’t need this sort of a self-promotion.”

Bayern Munich have confirmed that Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara will have to undergo surgery, thereby ruling him out of the Fifa World Cup next month in Brazil. The 23-year-old, who only recently resumed to training after an injury lay-off that has seen him out of action since March, ruptured ligaments in his right knee last week which will require surgery, meaning he will be unable to participate in Brazil. “This is a bitter blow for Thiago and we feel really sorry for him," Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stated on Bayern Munich’s official website. Alcantara, who has been capped five times by Spain, is the son of former Brazilian international Mazinho , and was looking forward to featuring at the Mundial in his father’s native country.

Victor Valdes has bid an emotional farewell to Barcelona and the various people who have influenced his career over the years. The Spanish international will leave the Catalan giants in the summer after 12 years at the Nou Camp, but any hopes of an on-pitch farewell went out the window when he suffered a knee injury two months ago. Valdes poured his heart out in a letter published on Wednesday. “The time has come for me to say goodbye to you all. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to say goodbye playing football, as I would have liked, but that’s life at times, and this year has been a bit cruel to me in this regard. Thank you to Louis Van Gaal, for showing the courage necessary to gamble on a talent that only he could see. He began building this historic Barca side, which I have been privileged to be part of. My heartfelt thanks. Thank you Frank Rijkaard, for giving me the confidence necessary, and allowing me to achieve glory, getting my hands on the European Cup in Paris. Wherever you are, I will be indebted to you for the rest of my life Mister. Thank you Pep, for having opened the door to playing a game that was unknown to me, for guiding me along the road where one has to keep looking for success, and we did it together, right? We’ll always have that Mister, and believe me, it will be eternal!. Thank you Tito! Wherever you are, I thank you for having taught us not only the way to keep winning as a team, but also the strength and character needed to face life. Thanks to all my colleagues with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work, that involves wearing the Barca crest on our chests day after day, for making me feel important within the group that we developed over all these years. And of course I cannot forget the most important people, over these 12 years as a professional, wearing this shirt, my most loyal fans.”

English champions Manchester City are leading a trio of English clubs in the hunt for Nigeria striker Emmanuel Emenike. Tottenham Hotspur and Everton are the other two according to reliable sources from Turkey and England. Fenerbahce have been made aware of the interest, but sources say the Turkish giants are unwilling to part with their prize forward, except otherwise persuaded by a hefty fee, estimated to be in the region of at least €20 million. Emenike is expected to lead Nigeria's attack at the World Cup and his impressive strike rate of 10 goals in 21 internationals means the clubs involved hope to strike a deal with Fenerbahce before the World Cup, to forestall a bloated valuation in the event of the player having a good tournament. Sources close to the player confirmed the interest, but say Emenike will not move unless it is to join a club playing in the Champions League. Emenike rejoined Fenerbahce last August from Spartak Moscow, and has scored 12 goals in an injury-restricted 28 appearances and weighed in with 9 assists.

Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott has confirmed he is leaving the English champions after nearly six years at the Etihad. The 31-year-old, who has been linked with Turkish outfit Besiktas and former club Everton among others, was not offered a new contract by City. "It is the end. I know I'm going to be leaving," Lescott said in The Guardian. "We've had a good relationship, this club has been a big part of me. As far as I'm concerned it's the end. If something changed then great but if not there are no hard feelings between me and the club. I've had a great relationship with them. I know the business side of it. We've been successful and I hold no grudges.” Regarding his next move, he said: "I'm going to see what's best for me and my family and then make a decision," Lescott said. "I've spoken to a number of clubs in different countries. There's been no decision made.

Former England star Joe Cole has left West Ham and is on the hunt for a club following the expiry of his contract at Upton Park. The ex-Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder saw little game-time this past season after returning to the Hammers on an 18-month deal in January last year. "I'm a free agent now and I'm looking for a new club," the 32-year-old said. "My relationship with West Ham is great, but obviously it didn't work towards the end of this season. I didn't play enough. So I'm just going to take my time over the summer and find the right fit. At this stage of my career finances are not important for me, I want to enjoy my football, I want to compete and I just want to play more."

Emmanuel Eboue is a notable absentee from Ivory Coast’s provisional World Cup squad, released last Tuesday. The Galatasaray man, who boasts 78 caps, failed to make coach Sabri Lamouchi's 28-man list, as did Genclerbirligi's Jean Jacques Gosso. Manchester City star Yaya Toure is joined by his brother Kolo of Liverpool, while Swansea striker Wilfried Bony, Newcastle's Cheick Tiote and former Chelsea winger Salomon Kalou also make the cut. The Ivorians will face Japan in their opening match of Group C on 14 June, with matches against Greece and Colombia to follow.

Ivorian squad:
Goalkeepers: Copa Barry (Lokeren), Gbohouo Sylvain (Sewe Sport), Sayouba Mande (Stabaek), Badra Ali (ASEC Mimosas).
Defenders: Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Bamba Souleyman (Trabzonspor), Jean Daniel Akpa Akpro (Toulouse), Arthur Boka (Stuttgart), Serge Aurier (Toulouse), Brice Dja Djedje (Marseille), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor), Benjamin Angoua Brou (Valenciennes), Ousman Vieira (Caykur Rizespor).
Midfielders: Cheick Tiote (Newcastle), Yaya Touré (Manchester City), Romaric (Bastia), Max-Alain Gradel (St Etienne), Ismael Diomande (St Etienne), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover 96), Constant Djakpa (Eintracht Frankfurt), Geoffroy Serey Die (Basel).
Strikers: Wilfried Bony (Swansea), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray), Gervinho (Roma), Giovanni Sio (Basel), Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow), Lacina Traore (Monaco), Salomon Kalou (Lille).

Chelsea captain John Terry has signed a one-year contract extension with the club. The 33-year-old defender's previous deal expired with the completion of the 2013/14 season this past weekend. "I'm delighted to have signed an extension to my contract with Chelsea taking me into my 20th year with the club," Terry told the Blues' official website. "I'd like to thank the fans and club for their continued support, and the manager who was instrumental for me the last season."

Liverpool have been given a boost in the hunt for Ashley Cole after he revealed he won’t be staying at Chelsea next season. Cole, whose contract at Stamford Bridge expires this summer, is a target for the Reds and a host of other European sides. He has been refusing to listen to other offers before holding negotiations with Chelsea over an extension, but reports on Monday claimed that he either rejected a new deal with the Blues or was not offered one. And then at around midnight, he tweeted to confirmed he probably won’t be playing for Chelsea ever again. It’s thought that Cole would prefer to stay in English football if any new club could match the salary he currently receives at Chelsea.

The Crystal Palace players certainly stuck together on the pitch this season and it seems they can’t be separated now the campaign is over either. The Eagles enjoyed a fantastic first term back in the top flight and several members of the squad have decided to celebrate in true Premier League style – surrounded by hordes of bikini-clad girls in Las Vegas. Palace stars Dwight Gayle, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Barry Bannan, Paddy McCarthy, Jerome Thomas and Aaron Wilbraham are all out in America soaking up the sights, and whatever else may be on offer, and have uploaded pictures of their holiday onto Instagram. It’s probably not quite how manager Tony Pulis will be spending his well-earned summer break, but the no-nonsense Palace boss will surely feel his team deserve to let off a bit of steam after securing a more than respectable 11th place finish.

According to German newspaper Bild, Liverpool have agreed a deal with Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Emre Can. The player has been linked with a move to Merseyside in recent weeks and his profile matches the calibre of player that Brendan Rodgers wants at Anfield. The German midfielder has impressed for Leverkusen this season, having signed from Bayern Munich last summer. Can is a versatile player who can play left-back and attacking midfield but he specialises in the defensive midfield role that Liverpool are looking to strengthen to help combat their poor goals against record. Can’s arrival could spell the end for Lucas who plays in a similar role and has struggled to regain his impressive form after sustaining serious injuries. The positive and early move by Liverpool in the transfer market would prove that the Reds are not going to rest on their laurels after such an impressive season. Indeed, Rodgers and his team are showing that they are ambitious to take the club to the next level after finishing the season so close to becoming champions.

Bacary Sagna may already have one foot at Manchester City, but that didn’t stop Arsenal fans launching a last-ditch bid to keep their right-back. The Frenchman is out of contract with the Gunners, and reports claim he will begin negotiations with Premier League rivals City after failing to agree terms on a new deal at the Emirates. However, after winning the FA Cup, fans serenaded the 31-year-old on the Gunners’ open-top bus parade around Islington with chants of “Bacary Sagna, we want you to stay”. His Arsenal team-mates were even seen joining in, but whether or not that’ll be enough to convince the French international, who has also been linked to Manchester United, remains to be seen.

Eden Hazard has responded to criticism from Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho by agreeing that he must improve his game next season. In the aftermath of the Blues’ Champions League exit against Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho expressed his dissatisfaction with Hazard’s performance publicly. Yet the Belgian says that he is right to drive him hard, saying: “It’s true and it’s good. I prefer it when we speak like this, rather than saying things like: “He’s the best and he doesn’t need to work.” The Chelsea boss also said that he wants more from the 23-year-old next season when presenting him with the club’s player of the year award, a little lighter in tone than when he made Hazard a scapegoat following their European exit. But Hazard is clearly a man that backs his talent and Mourinho will hope that he can get the best out of him. Hazard spent most of the season carrying the Chelsea attack whilst the manager was bemoaning his lack of strikers and stating that it was ‘too windy’ for Oscar, who has put his feet up since the departure of Juan Mata, during the Brazilian’s drastic slump in form since the turn of the year.

Inter Milan are ready to turn their attentions to Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez. The Italian giants see ‘Chicarito’ as a viable alternative should they be unable to land their top target Fernando Torres. According to Italian paper La Gazzetta Dello Sport, Chelsea striker Torres remains the first choice of Inter president Erick Thohir but he would only be available on loan. And now Inter are keen to test incoming United manager Louis van Gaal’s resolve of keeping Hernandez, believing the 26-year-old Mexico striker may not fit into the Dutchman’s plans. Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko and Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morato are also on Inter’s list of potential targets. Hernandez played a bit-part role in United’s disappointing season, starting just six Premier League games as they stumbled to a seventh-placed finish.

Ryan Giggs has penned an open letter to fans after announcing his retirement from Manchester United after 963 appearances. “Today is a fantastic day for Manchester United. Louis van Gaal is a great appointment and let me begin by telling you how delighted I am to be working with someone of his calibre. His credentials are second to none and I’m positive the club will thrive under his leadership over the coming years. I would also like to take this opportunity to announce my retirement from professional football and embark upon a new and exciting chapter in my life, as assistant manager of Manchester United. I am immensely proud, honoured and fortunate to have represented the biggest club in the world 963 times and Wales 64 times. My dream was always to play for Manchester United, and although it saddens me to know I won’t be pulling on a United jersey again as a player, I have been lucky enough to have fulfilled that dream playing with some of the best players in the world, working under an incredible manager in Sir Alex Ferguson, and most of all, playing for the greatest fans in world football. I have always felt and appreciated your support. I want to also give a huge thanks to the backroom staff and support teams we have and have had at Manchester United over the years. I would not have achieved the success I have without your continuing dedication and commitment to creating the best environment to enable the players to thrive. I would not have won 34 trophies in my career without you. I would also like to say a special thanks to my friends and family for all your love and support. For me, today is a new chapter filled with many emotions – immense pride, sadness, but most of all, excitement towards the future. United fans I hope will share and echo my belief that the club, the management and owners, are doing everything they can to return this great club to where it belongs, and I hope to be there every step of the way. To the greatest fans in world football, thank you, I have loved every minute of playing for you and representing the biggest and best club in the world. See you next season.

Ateltico Madrid were forced to celebrate their first La Liga title in 18 years without the famous trophy, because the head of the Spanish FA was ‘travelling’. The capital’s ‘second club’ are the first side in 10 years to break up the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid, who have not failed to win the league title between them since 2004. However, Atletico’s remarkable achievement was soured after they were forced to conduct their open-top bus parade without the trophy. La Liga chief Angel Maria Villar was ‘away’ and therefore could not present the victorious team with the trophy at the Camp Nou, where Ateltico clinched the title with a 1-1 draw, meaning their “official” presentation will be delayed until the start of next season. Still, that didn’t stop players taking the now obligatory selfie.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been offered a sporting director role with the club for when he retires. The 32-year-old, who has two years left on his contract, netted his 26th league goal on Saturday as the French champions thumped Marseille 4-0 in their final game of the season. PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi is hopeful he can retain the iconic Swede beyond his playing days. "I spoke to Zlatan so that he'll stay with us when he finishes his playing career and becomes sporting director. If he does that he'll become the best sporting director in the world. He's got a big personality and everybody respects him," Al-Khelaifi told RTL radio. "I appreciate the professional that is Zlatan, the man that is Zlatan. He's very, very funny. I want to keep some former players when they stop, for example Zoumana Camara is somebody I would like to keep with us." Ibrahimovic arrived at Parc des Princes two years ago.

Atletico Madrid’s coach, Diego Simeone, says it is too early to rule Diego Costa out of the Champions League final against Real Madrid despite the striker's chances of playing looking slim. Costa limped off early in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Barcelona that clinched Atletico's first league title in 18 years, and the club revealed on Monday he had suffered a grade one injury of his right hamstring that will be evaluated day-to-day in the run-up to Saturday's final in Lisbon. Simeone said: "The week has just started, there are still some days until we have to decide. It's still early." Arda Turan also limped off against Barcelona, with a pelvic complaint, but there has been no news yet on his fitness. Atletico would ensure the greatest season in club history with a victory in Lisbon, when they return to a European Cup final for just the second time and first in 40 years.