International News - Issue 217

The scorer of the most important goal in Chelsea’s history is how Jose Mourinho described him this week and last Friday a deal was completed to bring him back to his spiritual football home. Didier Drogba is a Blue once more. At 36 his powers may have diminished a little, but Drogba is someone who remains valuable to a man of Mourinho’s considerable ambition. In a season when the Portuguese wants to guide Chelsea to a third Barclays Premier League title under his leadership, a player who was so central to the first two will certainly be useful to have around. Clearly, Mourinho values Drogba in the same way Sir Alex Ferguson liked to have players such as Ryan Giggs at Old Trafford. Not just for his experience but for his desire to see the club succeed; a desire that the younger players can draw on. In keeping with Chelsea’s policy for older players, Drogba has signed a one-year contract. Drogba previously plundered 157 goals in 341 outings for the Blues before leaving the club in 2012 for stints in China and Turkey. Drogba won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups with the London outfit between 2004 to 2012.

Liverpool have been given a boost in the hunt for Marco Reus after the winger reportedly turned down a new contract at Borussia Dortmund. Reus has been rumoured to be a strong target for the Reds this summer as they plot a re-build following the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona. Reports emerged last week that the Anfield club were considering a bid, and now Bild newspaper says Reus has alerted a host of clubs by rejecting a new contract with Dortmund. The paper says that his current deal runs out in 2017 but Dortmund are concerned by the fact his £27million release clause becomes active next summer. Dortmund have previously suggested that the player will stay put during this transfer window, despite the growing interest in his services. The Germany star, who is currently out injured, has also been linked with Manchester United and Real Madrid in the past.

Former World Player of the Year Ronaldinho has left Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro. It is believed both the club and player agreed on terminating the 34-year-old’s contract, despite only signing a new deal in January this year. The former Barca star seemingly played his last game for Atletico in their 5-3 aggregate win over Argentina's Lanus in the Recopa Sudamericana final earlier this month, when the forward was taken off early in the second half. Ronaldinho’s agent and brother Roberto de Assis said a decision on the Brazilian’s future will be made soon. "He will play until he's 42! He will reveal his future destination on Wednesday," said De Assis. A host of Australian clubs are believed to be interested in the services of the globally-recognised star.

Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal has highlighted some of the difficulties he faces in resurrecting the fortunes of Premier League giants Manchester United, claiming the squad is imbalanced. The Dutch mentor was brought in to replace David Moyes after a disastrous seventh-place finish last season, and believes he has inherited a “broken” squad. "I don't agree,” van Gaal told reporters when asked whether his task would have been harder had he directly taken over following Alex Ferguson’s retirement, highlighting the fact that he won the league in his first season in charge when taking over Barcelona in 1997. “I had to follow Bobby Robson at Barcelona the year after he won three titles and there wasn't a problem. When there is success you have a very good squad, and now I have to follow and the squad was broken I think.” The 62-year-old tactician feels he has a strong side, yet too many similar players in similar positions, thus creating an imbalance in the squad. "When you look at the squad, there is quality,” van Gaal said. “There is Rooney, van Persie, Hernandez, Welbeck, but you also see Juan Mata, Fellaini, and you see Herrera. There are a lot of players that can play in the same position. It is not in balance. It's more difficult to succeed in a difficult situation than in a fantastic situation." Van Gaal insists he will only bring in new acquisitions to Old Trafford that will fit in with his desired system. “I don't buy players for the sake of buying players," he said. "I buy players to improve my selection. Now I don't know if we will play (5-3-2) or 4-3-3. If I play 4-3-3 I need more specialists in the wings and attackers and then we have to buy another kind of player." United have been linked with a move for a centre-back in recent weeks, with Thomas Vermaelen and Mats Hummels said to be the front-runners.

Everton have signed Bosnia midfielder Muhamed Besic on a five-year deal from Ferencvaros. Toffees manager Roberto Martinez is confident the 21-year-old, who featured at the recent World Cup, will make an impact at Goodison Park. "Muhamed is a young footballer who has developed massively in the last two seasons. He has been playing as a centre-half and as a defensive midfielder at an incredible level," Martinez told the club's official website. "What he did with Bosnia-Herzegovina in the World Cup, he showed that he is a really mature footballer, that he covers the ground really well, that he is very dynamic and technically very gifted. He is bringing us really good strength in an important part of the side."

Arsenal have signed Calum Chambers from Southampton on a “long-term contract for an undisclosed fee”, believed to be a deal rising to £16m. The 19-year-old defender made only 18 Premier League starts last season yet Arsene Wenger had no hesitation over the fee, understood to be an initial £11m with add-ons, such is the potential that he sees in the Hampshire-born player. “We are very pleased that Calum has agreed to join us,” Arsene Wenger told the club’s website. “The way he adapted to the Premier League last season with Southampton at a young age shows that he has tremendous quality. He has a lot of the attributes that we look for in a young player and I am sure that he will do well with us.” The 19-year-old is expected to make his first Arsenal appearance at the Emirates Cup on the weekend of 2 August. On Monday, before the club officially announced the deal, Wenger said of Chambers: “He can play at centre-back, right-back and central midfield. I hope he will give us competition for the players in these three positions. The Arsenal manager has already signed the France right-back Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle to replace Bacary Sagna, who has joined Manchester City on a Bosman free but that did not deter him from moving for Chambers, with Carl Jenkinson’s future at the club now in doubt. Chambers is Arsenal’s fourth signing this summer, following the £32m marquee deal for Alexis S├ínchez and a £3.2m move for goalkeeper David Ospina.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez is confident that he will land Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku this summer. According to the Independent, the Toffees boss told fans, ‘of course we’ll get him’, when questioned during the club’s tour of Thailand. The Chelsea forward spent last season at Goodison Park, netting 16 goals in 33 games, and is unsure of his future at Stamford Bridge. Lukaku handed in a transfer request last August, resulting in his loan deal to Everton, which followed a year on loan at West Bromwich Albion. With Diego Costa arriving for £32m and Didier Drogba returning to Chelsea this summer, the Belgium international’s first team opportunities are not guaranteed.

Arsenal have rejected a bid of £3m from Hull City for Carl Jenkinson and are holding out for closer to £5m. The right-back is surplus to requirements following the signings of Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers. Jenkinson was initially thought to be likely to move on loan, but Hull’s offer was for a permanent transfer, and Arsene Wenger wants £5m for the 22-year-old. The English defender would prefer to stay in London, with West Ham favourites should they match the asking price. Swansea City and Sunderland are also monitoring the situation for a player who has made 57 appearances in three seasons at the Emirates without ever being considered a first-choice starter.

Dejan Lovren has described his move to Liverpool as a 'dream come true' after his £20million switch from Southampton was confirmed. The Croatia international has created Anfield history, as he becomes the most expensive defender in the club's history, surpassing the previous £18.6million that Liverpool paid Paris St Germain for Mamadou Sakho last September. Lovren, who has been Brendan Rodgers’ No 1 target for central defence all summer, agreed terms on a five-year contract after he completed a medical on Merseyside.

World football governing body Fifa have dispelled rumours suggesting Russia will be stripped of hosting the next World Cup in 2018. Recent violence in the area, escalated after the gunning down of a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane which led to the death of the 298 on board, has raised questions over whether the next global showpiece should be held in the politically-unstable nation. Fifa released a statement on their official website on Friday addressing the issue. The world football federation believes stripping a nation from hosting a scheduled event is not an effective means of combating the in-fighting within the region.

Barcelona forward Bojan Krkic has signed a four-year deal with English Premier League outfit Stoke City. The highly-rated Spaniard joins the Potters for an undisclosed fee as they look to bolster their squad and improve on last season’s 9th-place finish. Stoke City’s coach Mark Hughes was pleased with his side’s newest recruit. "Anyone who knows European football will be aware of him as a player and the fact that he sees his future at Stoke City is really exciting and an endorsement of the Club itself,” he said. "He's desperate to prove himself in the Premier League and we're pleased to be able to offer him that platform.” Having risen through the ranks at Barcelona, Bojan made his debut for the Catalans as a 17-year-old, scoring 26 goals in 120 appearances before being loaned out to Roma in 2012, and then Milan the following season. Bojan spent last season in the Netherlands, scoring five goals in 32 games as he helped Ajax win the League title, as well as the Dutch Super Cup.

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech insists he will fight for a regular starting berth between the poles for his side amid indecision over who the Blues’ number one will be this season. Cech has been an ever-present figure in goal for the past decade at Stamford Bridge, yet the return of Belgian youngster Thibaut Courtois after a successful spell in Spain has put his position under threat. Yet the Czech international says he will not settle for a spot on the sidelines. "I don't want to be on the bench," said the 32-year-old. "This is why I am trying to do everything to be in the team.” Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho recently claimed that one goalkeeper won’t be happy at the Bridge this season, yet Cech has vowed to stick it out and give his utmost to secure a place in the team. "I don't want to talk about ifs and buts,” he said. “Let’s see how I am going and what happens. You know I always give my best and obviously that is all I can do. I will do my best and do everything I can do to be as ready as possible for when the season starts.” Courtois, who is 10 years his junior, may be favoured as Mourinho looks towards the future, and Cech knows it will ultimately be his manager who will have to decide between the pair.

Former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard has finalised his move to new MLS outfit New York City FC. The 36-year-old England international has signed a two-year contract with his new club, and will make his debut when the new season kicks off next year. “I am really excited about joining New York City FC and helping to play a real part in building something special in one of the sporting capitals of the world,” Lampard said upon his presentation at his new side. “The passion of the nation’s fans at the World Cup was second to none and I am looking forward to meeting New Yorkers and tapping into their love of the game. It is a privilege to be able to help make history here in New York City - I just can’t wait to get started and be part of it.” Lampard, who joins New York’s other marquee signing David Villa in the Big Apple, spent 13 trophy-laden years at Stamford Bridge, winning three League titles, four FA Cups as well last the 2012 Champions League crown.

Tottenham Hotspur have confirmed the signing of defender Ben Davies and goalkeeper Michel Vorm from Premier League rivals Swansea City. Left-back Davies was acquired in a £10 million (R179 million) swap deal which saw Tottenham’s Gylfi Sigurdsson move in the opposite direction as he joins Swansea, while a fee of £4.5 million (R81 million) was agreed for Dutch goalkeeper Vorm, who was part of the Netherlands squad that finished third at this year’s Fifa World Cup. Vorm is fully aware of the competition he faces with regular shot-stopper Hugo Lloris for the number 1 jersey at White Hart Lane, yet believes he can contribute to a busy season for the Lily Whites.

Paris Saint-Germain have completed the signing of Ivory Coast right-back Serge Aurier. The 21-year-old joins from Toulouse, having been one of the few standout players for the Elephants during the World Cup. “To play for Paris Saint-Germain, with the exceptional players this club has, is a dream come true,” Aurier says.

Patrick Vieira walked Manchester City off the pitch in the middle of a pre-season game after Under-21 midfielder Seko Fofana was allegedly the victim of racial abuse in Croatia. Vieira's Elite Development Side are currently on a 10-day pre-season training camp in Novigrad and they demanded that a match against HNK Rijeka was postponed after an opposing player allegedly racially insulted Fofana, a 19-year-old Frenchman.

Spanish giants Barcelona have reinforced their defence with the signing of Valencia’s Jeremy Mathieu. A fee of 20 million euros was confirmed by the Catalan club. Mathieu has spent the last five seasons at Valencia, making 177 appearances, with seven goals to his name. The versatile Frenchman can be deployed either at left-back or in the centre of defence, and can also cover in midfield. The 30-year-old, who made the switch to Spain following his move from Toulouse in 2009, started 48 games in all competitions for Valencia last season as they finished 8th in La Liga and reached the semi-finals of last season’s Europa League.

Former Selecao defensive midfielder Dunga has been officially announced as the new manager of the Brazilian national team. Dunga will take over at the helm for his second stint in charge of the South Americans, following his four-year tenure in charge from 2006-2010. The 50-year-old replaces Luiz Felipe Scolari after he could only manage a fourth-place finish at this year’s Fifa World Cup in their native country. Dunga, who previously managed Brazilian club Internacional last year, had a fairly successful spell in charge of the Selecao in his first attempt as an international coach, leading Brazil to 42 victories in his 60 games in charge, losing just six. Under his leadership, Brazil won the 2007 Copa America and the 2009 Confederations Cup, but was fired after he could only manage a quarter-final spot in the 2010 World Cup, losing to eventual finalists the Netherlands. Dunga will announce his first squad under his new regime next month ahead of two friendly fixtures against Colombia and Ecuador.

Mario Balotelli has been linked with a move away from AC Milan all summer, but he clearly remains a fan’s favourite. The maverick forward had a goal disallowed as the Rossoneri received a 5-1 hammering at the hands of his former club Manchester City in Pittsburgh, USA. Stevan Jovetic scored twice while Scott Sinclair, Jesus Navas and youngster Kelechi Iheanacho all notched for the Citizens, with only Sulley Muntari replying for the Italian club. But late on, two curly-haired pitch invaders in Milan shirts made a beeline for Balotelli and took a selfie with the obliging striker.