International News - Issue 219

Barca Snap Up Arsenal Skipper Vermaelen
Barcelona have completed the £15m signing of Arsenal's Belgium international defender Thomas Vermaelen on a five-year contract. The 28-year-old passed a medical on Saturday and was presented to fans and media at the Nou Camp on Sunday after finalising the deal. "Coming to Barcelona is a dream move - it wasn't a difficult decision at all," the centre-back said. Vermaelen joined Arsenal from Ajax for £10m in 2009 and made 150 appearances. Barcelona's new signing said: "I feel ready to play here. I think I can offer a lot to this club. There's a lot of competition here but I'm very excited. It's up to me to show what I can do - it'll be a challenge for me." Vermaelen had been a target for Manchester United but they ended their interest after refusing Arsenal's demand to receive a player as part of the deal. Gunners manager Arsene Wenger confirmed ahead of Sunday's Community Shield match against Manchester City that he would be looking for a replacement defender. He told BT Sport: "At the moment it is a possibility that someone comes in to replace Thomas Vermaelen. I can't tell you who!" Vermaelen was troubled by a series of injuries and lost his place at centre-back last season as Wenger favoured Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. Vermaelen becomes Barca's second centre-back signing this summer after Valencia's Jeremy Mathieu, their first recruit in that position since 2009.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has revealed Daniel Agger is no closer to getting his wish of a move away from Anfield, despite reported interest from Tottenham and Arsenal. The defender has reportedly begged Rodgers to allow him to leave this summer, in search of regular first-team football. But the Reds boss says no clubs appear to be interested in signing the Danish international, despite his clear desire for change. “I’ve seen some stories on that but, no, we haven’t had any enquiries,” said Rodgers. “Dan’s still getting some work done on his knee, he’s been a bit unfortunate since America. He’s still getting treatment but we haven’t had anything, no offers.” The 29-year-old centre-back made just 23 appearances in all competitions under Rodgers last season and believes his chances on Merseyside remain slim. Arsenal and Tottenham have both been linked with a move for Agger, but have yet to make a formal approach.

Hatem Ben Arfa has seemingly taken Newcastle’s decision to ban him from the club’s open training event into his own hands – after the winger decided to hold his own meet and greet session with fans on the same day. The Frenchman has been rumoured to be on his way out of the St James’ Park outfit this summer after the 27-year-old returned to pre-season training from his holidays overweight. The incident resulted in the Magpies ordering Ben Arfa to train with the club’s reserve squad before they stripped him of his No. 10 shirt – with the jersey being given to new recruit Siem De Jong instead. And after Newcastle banned Ben Arfa from their open training session with supporters on Tuesday, the winger participated in his own meet and greet session with fans at a sports memorabilia shop, The Back Page, later that day.

Manchester United appear to be a step closer to sealing a move for Juan Cuadrado, after reportedly agreeing personal terms with the player. Catalan newspaper Sport are reporting the agreement between player and club, despite mounting interest from Barcelona. But United are not yet believed to have reached a deal with Fiorentina, who are still holding out for around £32m. Meanwhile, further reports in Spain also suggest boss Louis Van Gaal is stepping up his pursuit of Angel Di Maria after Paris Saint-Germain cooled their interest over the weekend. “We don’t have attacking wingers to give us width. Or, I should say, we don’t have wingers of the highest level, like Ronaldo or Di Maria, or somebody like that,” the Dutchman is reported to have said.

Brazilian forward Robinho has joined boyhood club Santos in his native Brazil for his third stint with the club. The former Real Madrid attacker has had much speculation over a move away from the San Siro in recent months, and it has finally been revealed that the 30-year-old will be returning to Santos for a year-long loan. "It's my home," Robinho told Santos’ official website. "It's a place where I feel very good, where I showed up to the football world. I hope to repay all the affection of the fans on the pitch. I want to put Santos where it has to be, which is in the highest place in the table," added the former Brazilian national team star.

Sunderland have signed English midfielder Jack Rodwell on a five-year deal from Premier League champions Manchester City. The clubs did not disclose a transfer fee, but media reports indicate Rodwell cost around £10million. The 23-year-old struggled to make an impact in two injury-plagued seasons at the Etihad following his exit from Everton.

German striker Miroslav Klose has retired from international football at the age of 36. The Lazio star is the country's top scorer with 71 goals from 137 appearances, while he also holds the record for World Cup goals with 16 strikes.

Premier League outfit Liverpool have captured Atletico Madrid right-back Javier Manquillo on a season-long loan deal at Anfield. The 20-year-old, who began his career at Real Madrid before swopping for crosstown rivals Atletico in 2007, is a regular Spanish international at youth level, having turned out for the U18, U19 and U20 national teams, winning the 2012 U19 European Championships. The speedy fullback becomes the seventh signing at Anfield, joining the likes of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren and Divock Origi in a new-looks Reds squad this season.

Former Orlando Pirates midfielder Isaac Chansa has become the latest player with PSL experience to move to the new Indian Super League. Chansa has signed for Shilang Lajong FC, who play in the I-League, and will also feature for North East United FC in the ISL which will start on October 12. The Zambian will be team-mates with 2010 World Cup winner Joan Capdevilla at North East United. Botswana midfielder Ofentse Nato and Ethiopian striker Fikru Tefera Lemessa, along with Deshi Bhaktawer who will work as goalkeeper coach at the Antonio Lopez Habas-coached Atletico de Kolkata, make up the growing list of players with PSL links heading to the subcontinent. Chansa has most recently been playing for Zanaco back in his homeland and returns to Asia having previously competed in China. The contracts range from R250 000 to R7,5 million for the marquee signings.

Pepe Reina has completed his move to Bayern Munich from Liverpool, the German club has confirmed. The Spanish goalkeeper, who spent last season on loan at Napoli, has penned a three-year deal with the Bundesliga champions. Reina, 31, is expected to serve as cover to 2014 World Cup winner Manuel Neuer at the Allianz Arena. Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said on the club's official website: "It reflects what we were looking for. We wanted a goalkeeper who is experienced and established and also has certain footballing qualities."

Italian giants AC Milan have reinforced their defence with the addition of Napoli’s Pablo Armero on a season-long loan. The Colombian international, who did duty for his country at this year’s World Cup, replaces left-back Kevin Constant, who was sold to Turkish outfit Trabzonspor last week.

Ajax Amsterdam are in talks with Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o regarding a short-term deal, the club's director Marc Overmars has confirmed. Eto'o, 33, is a free agent after netting 12 goals for Chelsea last season. "Samuel seemed very hungry to play for Ajax. He is fit and has a great drive to succeed once again," Overmars told Voetbal International. "We don't want to block the growing process of our talents like [Arkadiusz] Milik and [Richairo] Zivkovic, but if it is possible to sign a world class player like Eto'o, then why not? It will be fantastic." Eto'o, a record four-time African Footballer of the Year, is also believed to be on Sunderland and Liverpool’s radar having rejected a move to West Ham in the off-season.

World Cup top goal-scorer James Rodriguez has revealed he has practiced his memorable volley against Uruguay on numerous occasions in training, yet finds it hard to replicate his heroics which won him this the World Cup’s Golden Boot award. Speaking to Fifa after being awarded his trophy, the Colombian star said he was pleased with his country’s run to the quarter-finals of this year’s World Cup, before coming unstuck against South American counter parts Brazil. The new Real Madrid signing secured the tournament’s top goal-scorer award with six goals, yet could not pinpoint one which he preferred over the rest. “I like all six,” he revealed. “They were all important because they helped the team to win games. Every one of them was special because scoring goals in such a big competition is unique.” The talented forward was then asked about his well-taken volley against Uruguay which many feel was the goal of the tournament. “I’ve seen it … (pauses and smiles) about 20 times,” he said. “I always try it in training. You try 100 times and it goes in twice! This time it went in, and right in the corner too, although personally I prefer the one against Japan. It was classier and had a little more magic about it. It was a nice goal.”

Real Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez is set to join AC Milan after agreeing terms with the Serie A giants. Milan confirmed the news via their club television channel on Saturday morning. The 32-year-old's departure was seemingly hastened by Real's summer signing of Costa Rica star Keylor Navas from Levante. Lopez shared the number one jersey with Iker Casillas following his arrival at Los Blancos midway through the 2012/13 season from Sevilla.

Aston Villa have signed French left-back Aly Cissokho from Valencia for an undisclosed fee, thought to be around £2-3m. The 26-year-old, who spent last season on loan at Liverpool, has penned a four-year deal with his new club. Cissokho's arrival at Villa follows that of fellow summer recruits Joe Cole, Philippe Senderos and Kieran Richardson. Cissokho made 15 Premier League outings for the Reds in 2013/14. He previously won the Portuguese League at FC Porto and the French Cup while at Lyon.

Eliaquim Mangala has finally been confirmed as a Manchester City player, with the central defender’s arrival from Porto for around £32m landing Manuel Pellegrini his prime summer transfer target. The manager hopes Mangala, 23, will play alongside the captain, Vincent Kompany, with Martín Demichelis and Matija Nastasic providing competition. Mangala, a member of France’s Brazil 2014 squad, is already familiar with some of his new team-mates. “The fact that Fernando is here is better because I played with him at Porto but there is also other players that I know like [Bacary] Sagna, [Gael] Clichy and [Samir] Nasri.” Pellegrini said: “I’m delighted to have added a player of Eliaquim’s quality in the squad ahead of the new season. He is already a fine player but in my opinion, he has all of the mental, physical, technical and tactical attributes to become one of Europe’s very best defenders. Eliaquim is a player I believe will make an immediate impact in the Premier League, thanks to his physicality, his reading of the game and quality on the ball. I think he will prove to be a great signing for us.”