International News - Issue 216

Rodriguez On His Way To Madrid
Real Madrid have signed Colombian star James Rodriguez from Monaco in a £63million deal. The 23-year-old succesfully passed a medical in Madrid this morning before agreeing a six-year deal and is scheduled to be unveiled in the Spanish capital this afternoon. Rodriguez will join up with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema to provide a formidable attacking threat for the Champions League winners. Rodriguez was one of the stars of the World Cup, scoring six goals for his country on his way to winning the tournament’s Golden Boot award. The midfielder scored the goal of the tournament at the World Cup with a stunning volley against Uruguay in the last 16. He makes the move to the Spanish capital after spending one season at Monaco, whom he joined from FC Porto for £35million last summer. Rodriguez scored nine goals and registered 12 assists for Monaco last season as they finished second in Ligue 1 behind Paris Saint-Germain. "The club had no intention to sell the player, however the time came when the solution of a transfer was considered to be the most beneficial solution for all parties." A statement on Monaco’s official website read: "The club would like to take the opportunity to thank James for the role he played in getting the club back to the Champions League and wishes him the very best for the future. "The club had no intention to sell the player, however the time came when the solution of a transfer was considered to be the most beneficial solution for all parties. "Monaco is proud to be a party to one of the most significant transfers in football history. "Monaco is a club that will continue to grow and remains focused on the future. More than ever it has the ambition to strengthen the team and continue to progress for next season."

Chelsea’s Champions League winning legend Didier Drogba is set to sign a one year deal to return to West London as a player-coach at the start of next week. Ten years to the day since Drogba initially joined the Blues from Marseille in a £24m deal, French newspaper L’Equipe have reported that the Ivorian will make a sensational return to Stamford Bridge. The 36-year-old is a free agent after his 18-month stint in Turkey with Galatasaray and is expected to be integrated into Jose Mourinho’s coaching staff as well as playing on for one more season. Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o have both left the club this summer, and Romelu Lukaku is constantly being linked with a departure, meaning the much-maligned Fernando Torres would be the only alternative to new boy Diego Costa should nobody else arrive. Drogba spent eight years at Stamford Bridge, famously signing off by scoring the winning penalty and equalising goal in the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich. He initially moved to China’s Shanghai Shenhua but returned to Europe with Galatasaray after just six months. Mourinho will be counting on the charismatic striker to bring some vital experience and leadership to the Chelsea dressing room, especially following the departures of veteran trio Eto’o, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole. Despite his age, Drogba has scored 28 goals in 64 competitive club games since leaving the Blues and he will be eager to display that he can still make an impact on the pitch in the Premier League.

Holland centre-back Stefan de Vrij is set to join Louis van Gaal at Manchester United, becoming the manager’s first signing since beginning his work at Old Trafford. Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw both arrived while Van Gaal was on World Cup duty with Holland, and he is keen to add the 22-year-old De Vrij after he excelled in Brazil. The Feyenoord defender only has one year left on his contract and has been fending off interest from Lazio in the belief that Van Gaal will take him to the Premier League. The fee being quoted is £10m which would represent extremely good value for money for such a young player, who played all seven games for his country in Brazil – scoring in the 5-1 thrashing of holders Spain. United need to strengthen at the back following the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, meaning Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are the club’s only recognised senior centre-backs. With Michael Carrick’s 12-week injury, it is expected that Van Gaal will move to sign at least one more central midfielder before the end of the summer transfer window.

Liverpool have confirmed Spanish striker Iago Aspas has joined Sevilla on a season-long loan deal. The 26-year-old, who only arrived at Anfield from Celta Vigo last summer, made 15 outings in all competitions in 2013/14, scoring one goal. Meanwhile, Reds midfielder Lucas Leiva is reportedly close to signing for Napoli, while the Merseysiders have agreed to sell Fabio Borini to Sunderland if personal terms with the player can be finalised.

AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli “lives in a dimension that is far away from reality,” so says former Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. Balotelli, whose undeniable talent is often hindered by his temperament, came under fire following the Azzurri's poor World Cup campaign. The 24-year-old scored in his country's 2-1 win over England, but  was criticised for his efforts in the losses to Costa Rica and Uruguay. New Galatasaray boss Prandelli told Corriere della Sera: "Balotelli is a good guy, really. He is not a bad person. But he lives in a dimension that is far away from reality. That doesn't say anything, though. He is only 24 years old and has the possibility to build on this experience."  

Nigeria striker Brown Ideye has joined West Brom in a three-year deal worth a club record £10 million. Ideye, who won the African Nations Cup with Nigeria but was inexplicably left out of the World Cup squad, joins from Ukrainian club Dinamo Kyiv. The forward was at West Brom on Friday morning to sign the deal, and has been handed the number 9 jersey. Ideye says he is thrilled by the move. Ideye started his career at Nigerian club Ocean Boys, but moved to Swiss side Neuchatel Xamax then moved to Sochaux before joining Kyiv in 2011. He was called in as a last minute replacement for the injured John Mikel Obi for the 2010 World Cup, and played a pivotal role as Nigeria won the African Nations Cup in 2013. He also represented the country at the FIFA Confederation Cup in 2013 before being surprisingly cut from the 2014 World Cup squad. Ideye will become the fifth Nigerian to play for the Baggies, following in the footsteps of Ifeanyi Udeze, Nwankwo Kanu and more recently Osaze Odemwingie and Victor Anichebe and he says he looks forward to carrying on the proud Nigerian traditions at the club.

Chelsea striker Demba Ba has completed his move to Turkish club Besiktas. The club announced that the Senegalese had passed his medial on Friday, thus completing his €6 million (R86 million) move from Stamford Bridge. "I've had a lot of positive feedback about Besiktas and Istanbul from my Senegalese friends in Turkey," Ba said on the Beskitas website. "To play in a Muslim country and in a new stadium is definitely very exciting.” The 29-year-old was not included in Jose Mourinho’s plans for the upcoming season, with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa joining the Blues as their first-choice striker.

Liverpool are closing in on three major summer targets designed to paper over the large Luis Suarez shaped hole at Anfield. Loic Remy, Dejan Lovren and Divock Origi are all expected to be Liverpool players in the near future at an outlay of close to £40m. An £8.5m fee has been agreed with QPR for the sale of Remy and the France international. Having scored 14 Premier League goals whilst on loan at Newcastle last season, the striker has been in demand this summer and was at one stage expected to join Arsenal. However, the 27-year-old failed to agree terms with the Gunners and is now almost certain to be playing his football at Anfield next term. He will join up with the Liverpool squad in Boston having already agreed terms with the club. Also heading to Boston to meet-up with Liverpool's pre-season tour is Origi. The Belgium international shone at the World Cup and looks likely to be rewarded for those performances with a move from Lille to the Premier League. A fee in the region of £10m has been agreed and the 19-year-old forward is expected to undergo a medical in the next few days. Should the deal go through, Origi will immediately return to Lille on a season-long loan. Forward looking players Emre Can and Rickie Lambert have already joined the club, but Brendan Rodgers is also hoping to make a breakthrough at the other end.

Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure says he will see out his contract at Manchester City after a summer of speculation about his future. Toure's deal with the English champions runs until 2017. The African Footballer of the Year had been linked with a move to Paris St Germain and Manchester United amongst other teams in recent weeks.  "The fans have always been good to me, they've always been good to my family," Toure told Sky Sports News on Friday. "I want to stay. I will always honour my contract. I don't think about all this speculation. It's a big pleasure to stay and enjoy the next season. Everything is fine now," he continued. "There was a lot of speculation, you know. I think sometimes it's quite disappointing. I need to do something for the fans, it's important to let them know. They've done a lot for me. The team is preparing well and we will try to win again next season."

Philipp Lahm has retired from international football in the wake of Germany's World Cup triumph in Brazil. The Bayern Munich fullback earned 113 caps and scored five goals, having made his national team debut in a 2-1 win over Croatia on 18 February 2004.

Germany’s World Cup celebrations may have gone a little too far as it was revealed that a portion of the trophy was damaged in the post-tournament festivities. An estimated one million supporters packed the streets of Berlin as their victorious side landed back in Germany last week as Joachim Low’s charges celebrated with their fourth World title in front of their jubilant fans. However, it has been revealed that the trophy did not survive the festivities, and was damaged by an unknown member of the squad. "At one point, a small piece of our World Cup trophy was chipped off," German football association president Wolfgang Niersbach told Die Welt. "But do not worry! We have specialists on the case who can fix it.” The president said they were unable to pinpoint who the culprit was. Fortunately, the Germans have only damaged a replica of the trophy given to them by Fifa, and not the original with which they celebrated on the night of the victorious Final against Argentina on 13 July. The original World Cup trophy has an estimated value of around €10 million (R144 million).

Barcelona fullback Adriano will be out of action for over a month after his club detected an abnormal heart rhythm during his preseason medical. “According to the Club’s Medical Services, Adriano Correia has undergone an electrophysiological study in order to treat the abnormal heart rhythm discovered during his medical on Monday,” read a statement on Barcelona’s official website. “He will be sidelined for four to six weeks. The player will undergo physical training during this time.” The 29-year-old Brazilian, who has been at the Nou Camp since 2010, will therefore miss a large portion of Barcelona’s opening fixtures next season as the club determine the treatment for the defender’s condition.

German World Cup winner Mesut Ozil has donated a portion of the money he received in Brazil to local children undergoing surgery in the host nation of this year’s Mundial. The 25-year-old had already assisted in the funding of 11 operations prior to the World Cup, yet has increased his donation following Germany’s 1-0 World Cup victory over Argentina in the Final of this year’s competition. "Prior to the World Cup I supported the surgery of eleven sick children [in Brazil],” Ozil revealed on his official Facebook page. "Since the victory of the World Cup is not only due to eleven players but to our whole team, I will now raise the number to 23." Joachim Low’s charges reportedly earned bonuses of €300 000 (R4.3 million) each following the win over the Albiceleste as they recorded a fourth World Cup title in their history. Ozil’s act of generosity comes after players from both the Algerian and Greek squads also donated their bonuses to charitable causes after their World Cup exits in Brazil.

Sami Khedira is still a Real Madrid player, at least for now, as his agent played down any talks of a deal struck with a Premier League club. Despite reports insisting the World Cup star had signed for London club Arsenal, Khedira’s agent Jorg Neubauer rubbished any claims of a move being finalised.
“We are not in talks with Arsenal,” Neubauer told Telegraph Sport. “I don’t think a fee can have been agreed, otherwise I would have been told. When a club have an interest I am sure they will call me and we will speak about things. The same goes for Chelsea.” Neubauer did reveal that his player, who has one year left on his contract at the Bernabeu, was in talks with Los Blancos, yet a final decision has not yet been made.

Spanish giants Real Madrid have reportedly secured the services of Costa Rica’s World Cup star Keylor Navas. Navas, who shone between the posts for the Central Americans as they reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Brazil, is set to join the European Cup winners after his club Levante agreed a deal with the Galacticos. According to Spanish publication Marca, Madrid have met the player’s buy-out clause of €10 million (R144 million), eight of which will go to the club, and two to the player himself. Levante are looking to cash on their star shot-stopper, rather than see him leave for free in January when his contract expires.

Former Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri has signed a two-year deal to take over as coach of Italian champions Juventus. SkySports Italia reveal the 46-year-old will take over from Antonio Conte, who handed in his shock resignation from the Bianconeri last Tuesday after leading the Old Lady to three successive Serie A titles. Allegri, whose previous coaching stint was at the helm of Milan, won the Italian League in his first season with the Rossoneri in 2011, yet was fired in January this year after a disastrous start at the San Siro, which saw the club finish 8th at the end of the season and out of all European competition for the upcoming campaign.

Chelsea have signed Atletico Madrid left-back Filipe Luis for £15.8m on a three-year contract. The 28-year-old impressed last season as Atletico won La Liga and reached the Champions League final. Luis is Chelsea's fourth summer signing, and their second from Atletico after striker Diego Costa moved to Stamford Bridge for £32m. He will replace former England left-back Ashley Cole, who joined Roma last week after the Blues opted not to offer him a new contract. Luis has played 180 matches for Los Rojiblancos since arriving from La Liga rivals Deportivo La Coruna in the summer of 2010. He was on Brazil's standby list for the 2014 Fifa World Cup. His arrival at Stamford Bridge follows the signings of Costa plus midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Mario Pasalic.

Tottenham Hotspur are reportedly in pole position to sign Swansea City’s Wilfried Bony after Liverpool cooled their interest following their £8.5m deal for striker Loic Remy. The Reds have been heavily linked with a move for Bony in recent weeks and were believed to have had a £12.5m bid for the Ivory Coast international rejected by Swansea – with the club wanting about £19m for the player. But after Liverpool agreed the transfer of QPR striker Remy on Saturday, The Sunday Express claims that the Reds’ interest in Bony has waned, which leaves Spurs favourites to sign the 25-year-old. Bony scored 25 goals in 48 appearances for Swansea last season and netted two goals for his nation at the World Cup in Brazil this summer.

Romelu Lukaku has been fairly public over his frustrations as a Chelsea player and wants peace of mind by knowing where his future lies, which led many to believe that the Belgian will likely leave the West London club. But the latest rumours suggest that Jose Mourinho wants the player to remain at Stamford Bridge and the Portuguese manager certainly needs forwards as new signing Diego Costa cannot, and should not, be expected to carry the goal-scoring burden alone. At 21-years-old Lukaku is one of the better young strikers in Europe despite an average showing at this summer’s World Cup. But because of his love/hate relationship with Chelsea and its public nature it is unlikely that the club will get his true value in a sale at this stage, so it makes no sense to move him on. There’s been a lot said about Mourinho not fancying the player as an option but Lukaku was making noises a long time before Jose returned for a second spell with the Blues and it’s doubtful that the issue is between the two of them.

Chelsea are believed to be in negotiations with Atletico Madrid over the transfer of Fernando Torres. Atletico are keen on seeing Torres return to the Vicente Calderon – the club from whom he joined Liverpool in 2007. But the Spanish champions aren’t yet willing to meet Chelsea’s asking price of just £13m – a staggering £37m less than the Blues paid for him in January 2011.Meanwhile, Chelsea are said to have cooled their interest in bringing Tiago back to west London from the Spanish capital.

Manchester United have beaten Barcelona in the race for Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, according to reports in Spain. Daily newspaper Sport are today reporting that Barca have conceded defeat in their attempts to sign the German international, with the player set for a move to Old Trafford. The £16m deal is expected could be completed this week, with Dortmund having already moved to replace Hummels by signing Matthias Ginter from Freiburg. If Sport’s claims prove to be accurate, Hummels will become United’s third signing of the summer, following Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera to Louis van Gaal’s side.

England captain Steven Gerrard has announced his retirement from international football after 14 years with The Three Lions. The news was revealed on Monday and comes after the Liverpool midfielder captained England at the World Cup in Brazil this summer – a tournament in which Roy Hodgson’s side failed to win a game at. Explaining his decision to retire from the international scene, Gerrard said: “I have enjoyed every minute of representing my country and it is a sad day for me knowing that I won’t pull on the England shirt again.” The FA confirmed that the 34-year-old will take on an ambassador role with the organisation.