International News - Issue 221

Liverpool’s New Bad Boy Balotelli Unveiled
Italy striker Mario Balotelli has finally completed his move to Liverpool. The 24-year-old forward had been linked to a move back to England for the entire transfer window, and finally put pen to paper in a long-term contract at Anfield, believed to be €16 million (R283 million). ‘Super Mario’ was thrilled with his move back to the Premier League as he becomes the Reds’ ninth acquisition this transfer window. “I'm very happy. We've been talking about coming here and now I'm happy to be here,” he told his new club’s website, before tweeting on his official account “YNWA! COME ON LIVERPOOL!”. “Liverpool are one of the best teams here in England and the football is very good here,” he continued in his first interview with his new side. It's a great team with young players, and that's why I came here.” The maverick forward, who scored 30 goals in 54 appearances for Milan since joining them a year-and-a-half ago from Manchester City, was full of praise for English football, admitting he made a mistake in leaving in the first place. “I’m happy to be back because I left England and it was a mistake,” he said. “I wanted to go to Italy but I realised it was a mistake. “English football is generally better. English football is beautiful.” A Premier League winner with City in 2012, Balotelli has won 33 caps for Italy, scoring 13 goals, but could not prevent his country’s shock group stage exit from this year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Cameroonian football player Albert Ebosse has died after being hit by an object thrown by spectators following a game in Algeria. The incident happened after Ebosse had scored in his team, JS Kabylie’s 2-1 home defeat to USM Alger on Saturday. The 24-year-old was taken to hospital in Tizi Ouzou, east of the capital Algiers, after fans started throwing objects – alleged to be rocks – at the players as they returned to the changing rooms following the game. Ebosse was pronounced dead with a head injury shortly afterwards with the Algerian interior ministry confirming that an investigation will be launched into the incident. The player’s club confirmed the loss while opponents USM Alger published a press release on Saturday in which they said they were saddened to hear of the 24-year-old’s death and described the tragic incident as a ‘bombshell’. Ebosse was the leading scorer in the Algerian league last season with 17 goals to his name. The Algerian Football Federation has suspended this weekend's round of fixtures.

Everton have entered the race for Danny Welbeck, with just a week remaining of the summer transfer window. The Manchester United striker has reportedly been told he can leave by boss Louis van Gaal, with Arsenal, Tottenham and Sunderland all showing a keen interest. But with just seven days of the transfer window left to run, Everton appear to have joined the hunt for the England international according to ESPN, with boss Roberto Martinez keen to add to his squad before next Monday’s deadline. Martinez’s desire to bolster his forward options comes following an injury sustained by summer arrival Romelu Lukaku during Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal, in which the Belgian limped off. The Toffees are also currently without Arouna Kone, who has still not resumed training after 10 months on the sidelines with a knee problem, while Ross Barkley will also be out for several weeks. “While the window is open, we are looking at anyone who can help us and also looking at our injured players and seeing how they react,” said Martinez.

Fabio Borini is keen to join Sunderland this summer but only on a temporary basis, as the striker remains unwilling to give up on his Liverpool career. The Italian spent last season on loan with the Black Cats, who want to make the deal permanent before the transfer window closes next Monday. But despite reportedly having had a £14m bid accepted by Liverpool last month, Borini has stalled on the deal as he doesn’t want to move to the Stadium of Light on a permanent basis, according to the Mirror. Borini is unlikely to get much playing time at Anfield this season despite the departure of Luis Suarez, with Daniel Sturridge and the incoming Mario Balotelli set to lead the line for Brendan Rodgers’ side. However, the former Chelsea man is still determined to make the grade on Merseyside and will only join Sunderland if Gus Poyet can negotiate a loan arrangement with Liverpool.

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone has been handed an eight-match ban by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) after his sending off in his side’s Spanish Super Cup victory on Friday. The passionate coach was given his marching orders after protesting that referee David Fernandez Borbalan was taking too long to allow right-back Juanfran Torres back onto the field after treatment in his side's 1-0 win over rivals Real Madrid in the season-opening Cup game. Following his red card, Simeone then tapped fourth official Antonio Santos Pargana on the back of his head, before sarcastically applauding the official’s decision, and then watching the rest of the encounter from the stands next to his bench, thus further breaking the law. The Argentine was duly punished by the Spanish FA, receiving an eight-match ban as announced on Monday. Simone misses two games for his protest, four for hitting the fourth official, one for his sarcastic clap and one for watching the game from the stands, and was also fined 4,805 euros, while Atletico have been fined 2,800 euros. According to Spanish media, the Atletico boss will serve four games of the sanction in La Liga, beginning next week, while he will serve out the other four in the Spanish Cup.

Leicester remain hopeful of wrapping up a late deal for Esteban Cambiasso despite the move hitting a stumbling block in recent days. The Foxes have been linked with a two-year deal for the Argentine midfielder, who is available on a free transfer having been released by Inter Milan at the end of last season. But despite the deal appearing fairly certain in recent weeks, it has since stalled with the two parties unable to agree on personal terms. However, with just a week of the summer transfer window remaining, Foxes boss Nigel Pearson remains hopeful of bringing the 34-year-old to the King Power Stadium. “Cambiasso is still a possibility,” he said. “There’s been progress over the weekend so I’m more hopeful than I was on Friday and Saturday but until there is a definitive answer I’m loath to talk too much. But I am hopeful it can be done in next couple of days.”

Manchester United hope to formally announce the signing of Angel di Maria by Tuesday evening after agreeing terms on a British record transfer fee of £59.7million plus add ons with Real Madrid. United officials held meetings with their Real Madrid counterparts on Sunday evening and resumed talks on Monday as they bartered down the £75million asking price. The scale of the extra fees due from United will depend on performances and the prospect of Di Maria winning the Ballon D'Or. The Argentina international posed with fans at Madrid airport on Monday afternoon prior to flying into Manchester on a private plane to meet up with United manager Louis Van Gaal late Monday night. Van Gaal had been at Carrington overseeing the first team squad's 4pm warm-down session and training ahead of their Capital One Cup second round tie at MK Dons. Di Maria's arrival will give the club a welcome lift following a disappointing start to the season that has delivered just one point from their opening two Premier League games but there is concern that his signing, as stellar as it is, fails to address United's real needs and Van Gaal is pressing the club to deliver two more players over the coming days. Ajax utility player Daley Blind and Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal are among those being considered. Madrid are also agreeing terms over United right-back Guillermo Varela. The United megastore was forced to post a sign on Monday saying they had run out of letter Rs as fans scrambled for number 7 shirts embossed with 'Di Maria' on the back.

Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o is set to join Roberto Martinez’s Everton after Liverpool withdrew their interest. The former Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker is a free agent after his one-year deal at Stamford Bridge expired earlier in the summer and will have a medical at Everton on Tuesday. A three-time Champions League winner, Eto’o has been coveted by a whole host of clubs this summer but according to Goal, the Toffees have won the race for his services. The 33-year-old has a stunning track record with more than 300 club goals to his name and Martinez wants dependable back-up to star striker Romelu Lukaku up front. Arouna Kone has been out with a long term injury and is still not available while Steven Naismith is more of a second striker than out-and-out forward. Eto’o will lower his £130,000-a-week wage demands if he is given a two-year deal, which seems the most likely outcome with Everton having already spent big on transfers and new contracts this summer. Signing for the Goodison Park club would be something of a backtrack for the veteran striker who insisted earlier in the summer that he will continue playing at a Champions League club.

New Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal has called for patience as he tries to rebuild the Red Devils team at Old Trafford. The Dutchman’s start in England got off to the worst possible start as United lost the League opener 2-1 to Swansea City last weekend, resulting in Van Gaal dubbing himself the “devil of Manchester” following the harsh criticism aimed at him after defeat. “Two weeks ago I was the king of Manchester and now I am the devil of Manchester," he said. "It's the football world and it is especially the media in this football world." Van Gaal said he knew it would be a difficult start in Manchester, but has called on fans to give him time in his new position. “They have hired me for my philosophy, not because I'm a nice guy. I am a nice guy but that's not why I was brought here. I'm not hired to be fired. I'm hired to build up a team. That process needs time. I bring another philosophy in the club. You have to believe in the philosophy that again we make a big club but it needs time. It is not an overnight job." United managed only a draw in their second match against Sunderland.

USA goalkeeper Tim Howard has announced he will take a break from international football for a year as he aims to spend more time with his family. The Everton shot-stopper had a stellar World Cup in goals for the Stars and Stripes in their run to the Round of 16, producing a number of fine saves for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side. Yet after discussions with his national manager, the 35-year-old requested to take a break from international football until September next year as he wishes to focus more on his personal life.

Kevin-Prince Boateng, Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien have been dropped from Ghana’s squad for next month’s African Nations Cup qualifiers. Boateng and Muntari were sent home in disgrace from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after altercations with officials. Essien, who made a rare public outburst after the tournament at his lack of playing time in Brazil and then later apologised, is also out along with midfielder Albert Adomah and goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey. Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah recalled Leicester City's Jeffery Schlupp and David Accam, who plays in Sweden, after the pair were cut from the preliminary squad the World Cup finals for the matches against Uganda on Sept. 5 in Kumasi and away in neighbouring Togo five days later. German-born Boateng was sent home ahead of Ghana’s last group game against Portugal after allegedly swearing at Appiah, a charge he denied. Muntari had punched a GFA official in a heated argument over bonus payments.

World Cup winner Thomas Muller has revealed he turned down lucrative offers to various “foreign clubs” in order to remain with current Bundesliga club Bayern Munich.  The 24-year-old forward, who has been with the Bavarians since his youth, was primarily linked with a move to Manchester United following his fine form for both club and country in recent months. However, the Germany international said although a big-money offer was on the table, he chose to remain at his childhood club. "Yes, I knew I could earn more by moving,” he told German publication Bild. "The figures that foreign clubs were talking about for me were astronomical. I can only say: a change was never really an issue for me anyway. FC Bayern is my club."

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois says he hopes fellow shot-stopper Petr Cech will remain at Stamford Bridge. The Belgian gloveman received the nod ahead of his Czech counterpart for Chelsea’s League opener against Burnley last Monday, with widespread rumours that he will be Mourinho’s favoured number one this season. Cech, who has been a regular figure between the sticks for the past decade, may therefore try find more consistent game-time at another club before the end of the transfer window. However, his younger competition for the gloves hopes the experienced keeper will remain in London. "I want him to stay,” Courtois said. “Even if he doesn't play he can be a lot of help to me in training. I can still learn from him because he has a lot of experience, he can give me good tips about the Premier League, things I might not know at the start. He is nice to me. We are training very well and he is still proving he is a great goalkeeper. For the team it is better for us to have two good goalkeepers. I don't have a problem if he stays. Hopefully I can play well and stay in the team." Courtois, who spent three successful seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid, realises he is under pressure to perform for his English side. "Always when you are here you have pressure to perform because you are playing in a top team,” he said.

World footballing body Fifa have rejected Barcelona's appeal against a transfer ban. The Catalans are therefore prevented from signing any players at both national and international level for two consecutive transfer windows, starting with the next registration period (January 2015). Barca's appeal, though, temporarily suspended the sanction, enabling them to recruit the likes of Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Thomas Vermaelen, Jeremy Matthieu, Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The club, which was also fined CHF 450,000, was punished due to irregularities with their recruiting of U-18 players for their academy, La Masia.

Nigeria have named a 23-man squad for next month’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Congo and South Africa. The list includes goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who hinted at international retirement after the World Cup in Brazil, as well as star players John Mikel Obi and Emmanuel Emenike. Also included is midfielder Ogenyi Onazi, who suffered a horror ankle injury against France, and Elderson Echiejile, who missed out on the tournament due to injury. Former Mamelodi Sundowns striker Gbolahan Salami, who failed to play a game for the reigning PSL champions, is one of five home-based players selected. The Super Eagles face Congo, in for the banned Rwanda, on September 6, before travelling to South Africa for the clash against Bafana Bafana on September 10.

Nigeria Squad:
Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Lille, France); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel); Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United, Nigeria)
Defenders: Elderson Echiejile (Monaco, France); Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC, Israel); Efe Ambrose (Celtic, Scotland); Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor, Turkey); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves, Nigeria); Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough, England); Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars, Nigeria)
Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea, England); Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio, Italy); Ramon Azeez (Almeria, Spain); Joel Obi (Inter Milan, Italy); Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis, Spain); Omatsone Aluko (Hull City, England)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce, Turkey); Chinedu Obasi (Schalke, Germany); Uche Nwofor (Heerenveen, Netherlands); Nnamdi Oduamadi (AS Varese 1910, Italy); Gbolahan Salami (Warri Wolves); Christian Osaguona (Enugu Rangers).

The most recent spread of the Ebola virus is set to affect qualifying matches for the continent’s premier national team football competition. The unrelenting Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been an important news topic for the last few months, dominating world headlines due to the record number of deaths and the far-reaching consequences of its spread, both actual and potential. More than 2 000 people have been infected since the most recent breakout of the virus, and at the time of this piece’s publication (22 August), 1 350 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria had passed away due to Ebola. The devastating reality is that this death toll will continue to rise before control over the virus can be exacted. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ebola is spread through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, or indirect contact with environments that have been contaminated with these fluids. For this reason, gathering in groups is not advised in areas where the illness is prevalent, meaning that team sports and especially contact sports become yet another unsuspecting casualty of this terrible situation. This makes sport particularly dangerous in terms of the potential spread of the disease, as sweat and blood often forms part of an athlete or sportsman’s typical daily toil, not to mention the huge crowds of supporters that gather to watch these events in cramped stadia with physical contact virtually assured. This horrific disease continues to pursue a worrisome progression; and now Africa’s favourite sport has been affected by the Ebola infection. January 2015 will see the next edition of the Africa Cup of Nations grace the pitches of Morocco for a three week period, and qualifiers for the tournament are currently underway. A statement released by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the governing body of the sport on the continent, explained that due to the risk of the further spread of Ebola, matches involving the three worst hit countries would need to be played in neutral territory. “CAF will maintain its schedule of matches on the entire continent, except for 3 countries: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, which have recorded a great number of [Ebola] cases. CAF has decided to ask the three Federations to relocate to a neutral country the matches of their teams participating in CAF competitions, for a period up to mid-September 2014

Arsenal fear Olivier Giroud could be out for weeks with the ankle injury he suffered at Everton on Saturday. The France striker has been ruled out of Wednesday night's crunch Champions League qualifier at home to Besiktas, and if a second scan taken on Monday reveals serious damage - such as a break - he could face three months out.  Gunners boss Arsene Wenger could now be forced to go into the transfer market for another forward in the final days of the summer window - or block Lukas Podolski’s looming switch to Italian champions Juventus or Wolfsburg of Germany. Manchester United’s surplus to requirements Danny Welbeck or Loic Remy of Queens Park Rangers, who was linked with Arsenal earlier this summer, would be two options if Wenger opted to buy. Yaya Sanogo will be available to face Besiktas in the match to decide who advances to the group stage after recovering from a hamstring injury.