International News - Issue 228

Ozil Ruled Out Till Next year
Arsenal attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil is hoping he can be 'back on the pitch soon' after being ruled out until the new year through injury. It was revealed last week that Ozil would be out for up to three months with knee ligament damage. The 25-year-old, who picked up the injury during his time on international duty with Germany, has been sent back to his club after undergoing scans. Ozil has since thanked the Arsenal fans for the support he has received and is looking forward to representing the club once again. The German playmaker tweeted: 'Thanks for your support following my injury. I'll come back on the pitch soon as I can to help #AFC. Now and in the future #MiaSanArsenal.' 

Sir Alex Ferguson felt Manchester United needed the big-money injection of talent provided by manager Louis van Gaal and chief executive Ed Woodward. United responded to a poor first season after Ferguson's retirement by bringing in Van Gaal, who has spent heavily since his arrival, signing Daley Blind, Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Ander Herrera, Marcus Rojo and Luke Shaw. The new signings have helped United into the top four already despite some indifferent performances, and Ferguson believes fresh faces were needed. Referring to the £59million capture of Di Maria from Real Madrid, he told MUTV: "When you can identify ability like that for Manchester United, they have the resources to do that - fees I never quite equalled but they needed a big injection this year." On the other signings he added: "Herrera played against us three years ago for Bilbao, he's a talented young player and we scouted him quite a lot. He's quite aggressive for a lad who's not got a great frame. I watched Rojo at the World Cup and thought he did well. He's capable of playing left side or centre back. Luke Shaw we tried to get when he was 16. They (Southampton) wouldn't sell him but they always said we'd be the first to know if he did. He's a talented boy, good footballer and likes to get forward. Daley Blind is a common-sense footballer, a version of Darren Fletcher a few years ago. And Falcao is the one we're all waiting to see, he's got fantastic goalscoring ability." Despite the big-money arrivals, Ferguson is pleased that Van Gaal has decided to use the club's academy as well. He added: "The rebuilding of the team, they've brought in some good quality which is really important because you need quality at Manchester United, you need the best players. What's pleased me about Louis is he's given about seven of the young kids their debuts, which falls into line with the history of the club. I think the supporters will respond well when a young player gets his opportunity." Ferguson was often pictured in the stands last season as the man he initially chose to replace him, David Moyes, struggled to get the team performing.

England manager Roy Hodgson has risked inflaming his already simmering feud with Brendan Rodgers by criticising the Liverpool manager's method of keeping Raheem Sterling fit. Hodgson's relationship with Rodgers was again put in the spotlight after he claimed Liverpool midfielder Raheem Sterling asked to be excluded from the England team for Sunday's 1-0 win in Estonia because he felt tired. Shortly after revealing the details of the conversation with Sterling, Hodgson told Rodgers he must do his bit to ensure the 19-year-old does not suffer from further physical and mental fatigue. The 67-year-old then went a step further by criticising one of the methods Rodgers uses to try to ensure his quickest players, presumably including Sterling, recover properly from matches. Rodgers revealed last month that he is a strong believer in giving his "fast" players two-days to recover from matches due to the stresses and strains their speed causes on their bodies. Rodgers spoke of his frustration at Hodgson's refusal to adopt the two-day recovery method for Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge last month after he pulled a thigh muscle during a sprint at an England training session. And it is understood Rodgers also gives Sterling two days off after games as he thinks it aids the pacy player's return to peak fitness. But Hodgson says there is little evidence the programme benefits players' recovery times. "Raheem might say it is something that is becoming ingrained in him and that he felt the need to talk about being tired more than he would normally do," Hodgson said. "But we have never had any problems with that. I don't think there is a lot of medical evidence to support the 'two-day recovery'. So if you want to, you might want to research that one. Certainly, the Germans who you admire so much -- they don't do it. That is for certain. I would expect players not to take it for granted that there will be two-day recoveries." In the early hours of Monday morning Sterling responded on Twitter to those who had ridiculed him for asking to be rested just eight weeks into the season. "Now listening too.. Excuse me for being human??," the 19-year-old wrote after retweeting two critical messages posted to him on the micro-blogging website. I think I should speak to Brendan, but it really is very simple and I am sure he understands that situation," Hodgson said.

Meanwhile, England captain Wayne Rooney has revealed he will celebrate racking up a century of caps by walking out at Wembley next month with his two children. Rooney will soon be bracketed alongside the likes of Bobby Moore, David Beckham and Bobby Charlton, with his 100th cap set to arrive in next month's European Championship qualifier against Slovenia. "It will be great. It's a great honour to get 100 caps for England," Rooney said. "I did not think it was possible when I first got into the team. Obviously my two boys will walk onto the pitch with me, but that will be it I think."

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has revealed he rejected two approaches from Paris Saint-Germain to become the French club's coach. Mourinho, who returned for a second spell as Chelsea manager in the summer of 2013, claims he was offered the chance twice to take charge of the French club before and after former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti's arrival and subsequent departure. The Portuguese claims he considered the offers, but decided to stay at Real Madrid at the time of the first offer, while he decided to return to Chelsea when the second offer came about. "I knew about the project (at PSG) even before it began. I was Leonardo’s first choice (ahead of Ancelotti)," Mourinho told French football programme Telefoot. "And when Carlo left (in 2013), they made me another offer. I have rejected them twice. I want to stay at Chelsea for as many years as possible. I have no other project than managing at Chelsea where I want to be."

Liverpool have yet another potential injury setback following news that Dejan Lovren has withdrawn from Serbia’s Euro 2016 qualifiers. The defender, who joined the Reds from Southampton, was meant to square up to Bulgaria and Azerbaijan before being struck down with an abdominal injury. “During training on Wednesday Lovren felt pain in the abdominal wall,” a statement read. “Igor Boric [a specialist] at St Catherine showed there was a tear and he will not be ready for performances in Sofia and Osijek.” It’s the latest setback for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, who also lost star striker Daniel Sturridge on England duty, as well as Joe Allen. French defender Mamadou Sakho is also out. Kolo Toure is expected to start alongside Martin Skrtel for the Reds this weekend.

Neil Lennon’s absence from the dugout has been confined to just six months after the Northern Irishman was confirmed as the new manager of Bolton Wanderers. Lennon signed a three-year deal with the Bolton club that sit at the foot of the Championship. The news may be a disappointment to Fulham who, it is believed, had identified him as a leading candidate for their vacant managerial role. Lennon left Celtic in May after four years in charge of a club he had earlier captained, and having won three titles in a row as manager. He believed he had taken Celtic as far as he could, and he was also increasingly disillusioned with the Scottish football scene. The 43-year-old’s coaching staff, Johan Mjallby and Garry Parker, will join him at Bolton.

AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi is shedding no tears over the departure of Italian striker Mario Balotelli. Balotelli's form fluctuated in an 18-month spell at the San Siro prior to his joining Liverpool in a £16 million deal in August. "I remember he was bought against my advice," Berlusconi told La Gazzetta dello Sport, referring to Balotelli's arrival at Milan in January 2013 from Manchester City. "We have many champions: [Jeremy] Menez, [Keisuke] Honda, [Stephan] El Shaarawy, [Fernando] Torres, [Nigel] De Jong...The base is there. And we no longer have a rotten apple in the dressing room."

Chelsea striker Diego Costa is relieved to have finally ended his international goal drought after scoring in Spain’s 4-0 victory over Luxembourg on Sunday night. Despite netting nine goals in seven matches for his club, the Brazilian-born forward was yet to score for his adopted country in six prior matches heading into their Euro 2016 qualifier against European minnows Luxembourg. Costa eventually opened his international account, controlling a bobbing ball in the Luxembourg box to turn and fire home Spain’s third in the 69th minute as La Furia Roja recorded a comfortable 4-0 win to get their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign back on track. The goal brought Costa great relief, having gone 515 minutes, and taken 26 shots at goal, before finally finding the back of the net for his country. “I have to thank the coach for his support,” Costa told TVE. “Every game he gave me another chance. “It was starting really bother me. It bothered me that I wasn’t scoring but what really bothered me that the team were losing. But this goal will give me a new start.”

Former Manchester City coach Roberto Mancini has claimed credit for the quality of today’s side managed by Chilean boss Manuel Pellegrini. Mancini, who recently had his contract at Turkish giants Galatasaray cancelled after one year at the club, feels his contribution in his four-year reign at City is still yielding dividends. “I think that we started to build this team five years ago," Mancini said. "In two years we won the Premier League, the FA Cup, we won everything in England. And this current team are playing nine of my players all of the time. I am very happy with that because I know these players. The Italian also credits himself for building the current Barclays Premier League side from the ground up, and says it was not easy to do so in the somewhat short period he was with “The Citizens”. "I think it's not easy to build a strong team with only four or five years. They are a team like Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona ... big teams that have been like that for 50 years. You need the time to improve. But [Manchester City] have a big chance also to be one of the best teams in Europe," added Mancini.

Three days after Rivaldo Coetzee became the youngest ever Bafana Bafana player, Martin Oedegaard played for Norway well before his 16th birthday. Coetzee was six days shy of his 18th birthday when he started in the 2-0 win against Congo in Pointe Noire. However, Oedegaard broke a long-standing European Championships record when he came on as a substitute in Norway’s 2-1 qualifying win against Belarus, aged 15 years and 300 days. "I was a bag of nerves when I came on, but with the welcome I got from the crowd I just had to smile and get on with it.” However, Oedegaard is far off the record for the youngest ever international. That honour belongs to Lucas Knecht, who was 14 years and two days when he represented Northern Marianas in a 9-0 win against Guam in 2007.

Barcelona right-back Dani Alves feels that he is star player Lionel Messi’s right-hand man, believing to have set up more of the Argentine’s goals than any other team mate. The 31-year-old, who joined the Catalans from Sevilla in 2008, has assisted 85 goals in his 304 appearances for his club so far, and claims he is the leading assister in setting up golden boy Lionel Messi to score. “I've set up more goals for Messi than anyone at Barcelona,” Alves said. “That's a fact. The cross for Messi's goal No 400 for Barca was mine. In Barca's first Club World Cup Leo's winning goal came from my cross. Some people might not like it, but it's there for everyone to see.” There has been widespread speculation of the Brazilian’s future at the camp Nou, as he stated last week: “This will be my last season at Barcelona. Next year I will move to England. I want to play in the birthplace of football.” However, Alves seems to have back-tracked on his previous remarks, saying he wishes to remain with the La Liga giants until his current deal, which ends in June next year, expires, and possibly beyond.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has revealed that predecessor Jose Mourinho had a number of dressing room issues with his players during his tenure with the Galacticos. Mourinho was reported to have had a number of spats with various players, including Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas, during his spell at the Santiago Bernabeu, and current manager Carlo Ancelotti admitted to knowing of such problems when he began his stint at the helm last year. “Before I arrived I was aware that there were lots of problems in the dressing room – problems between some players and Mourinho,” Ancelotti said. “Everything that happened in private would end up in the papers the next day. But when I took charge, everything had returned to calm." The Italian however said that everything had been cleared before he arrived, and that it was not he that restored peace to the dressing room. “I didn’t inherit any tensions,” he said. “Was I responsible for returning peace to the dressing room? No, no. When I arrived there was already a lot of serenity.” The former PSG, Chelsea and Milan coach said that his team is now a unified and cohesive unit under his mentorship. “Ever since I arrived, there hasn’t been one fight in the dressing room,” he said. “I have never had an unmotivated player or any confrontations with players who haven’t played as much as they’d want to.”

Cristiano Ronaldo says his rivalry with Lionel Messi is a "positive" thing. The star attackers are widely considered the best of their generation, with the two players scooping six of the last Ballon d'Or awards between them. Ronaldo says he is used to being compared with the Barcelona icon and understands where it comes from. "This is part of my life," Ronaldo said when asked what his thoughts on the rivalry with Messi are. "It is normal that people compare us. I am used to it. It happened to me at Manchester United and I know how to manage it. "We are football colleagues. Outside of football I have no relationship with Messi, but not with other players either. It is a positive rivalry."

Theo Walcott has given Arsenal fans a timely boost by returning to first-team training. The
England winger has been out of action since January after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury against Tottenham in the FA Cup. However, just as the Gunners’ treatment table was beginning to overflow, Walcott has made his long-awaited return to first-team duties. It’s unlikely the 25-year-old will start for Arsenal at home to Hull on Saturday, but he may be fit enough for a place on the bench. Arsene Wenger also offered fans encouragement that Olivier Giroud could return sooner than initially expected after making good progress in his recovery from a broken foot.

Roy Hodgson should have kept his conversation with Raheem Sterling private, says Jamie Carragher. The England manager revealed the Liverpool winger told him he was feeling tired and so decided to bench the 19-year-old for the 1-0 win over Estonia. Sterling came on for the final 25 minutes and won the free-kick which Rooney scored to give Hodgson’s men victory in Tallinn. But the post-match debate has centered over his conversation with the England manager, and Carragher believes it is something which should have been left behind closed doors. “We can debate whether Raheem Sterling should say that to the manager – for me, as a player, I’d never give the manager an opportunity to leave me out," said the Sky Sports pundit. “I just think, whether he is tired or if he didn’t feel right before the game, keep that between yourselves. Listening to Roy Hodgson – let’s not forget Adam Lallana came on for Sterling and did really well against San Marino – he may have been looking to [rest him]. Just come out after the game and say ‘I played Lallana, he came on and did well in the last game, I think Raheem needs a little bit of a rest’ and talk about it then. Rather than now, where there’s going to be a debate about Raheem Sterling and is he right at that age to be asking things like that? Roy Hodgson could have been a bit more careful with what he said before the game and after the game, and we wouldn’t be having these discussions now".