International News - Issue 229

Bale A Major Doubt For El Clasico
Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale is set to miss the Galacticos’ key upcoming fixtures against Liverpool and Barcelona through injury. The Welsh speedster was an unused substitute in Madrid’s 5-0 thumping of Levante over the weekend, and latest reports from the club reveal the 25-year-old is set for an unspecified time out on the sidelines. “After tests carried out on Gareth Bale by the Real Madrid Sanitas medical services, he has been diagnosed with a muscular injury in the right pyramidalis muscle,” a statement on Real Madrid’s official website read. “His progress will be monitored.” Bale has been in fine form for Los Blancos so far this season, scoring five goals in the 12 matches he has played in thus far, contributing five assists. In his absence, Spanish midfielder Isco is set to replace his team mate, as he did over the weekend, scoring one and assisting another as Real Madrid jumped up to third palce in the Spanish standings. Carlo Ancelotti’s men face a tricky away trip to Anfield as they take on Liverpool in the Uefa Champions league on Wednesday night, before hosting Barca in the first El Clasico of the season on Saturday evening.

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez says his teammate Lionel Messi is a better player than Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi and Ronaldo are widely considered the two best players of their generation, having won the last six Ballon d'Or awards between them. Messi has four, while Ronaldo picked up his second one in January. And while Ronaldo has plundered 15 goals in seven La Liga outings this term against the Barca ace's seven strikes, Suarez values Messi more highly irrespective of the pair's record in 2014/15. "In my opinion Leo is better [than Ronaldo]," Suarez was quoted as saying by Mirror. "I train and play with Leo every day and he surprises me every day. He is unique. Everybody knows what he has brought to Barcelona, what kind of world-class player he is. For me he is the best player in the world for what he has already done, and he’s still so young."

Barcelona fullback Dani Alves has reportedly agreed to join Manchester United at the end of the season. The 31-year-old Brazilian had previously been linked with Chelsea after voicing his desire to play in England. However, Alves is on his way to Old Trafford when his contract with the Catalans expires, according to the Daily Star. "The player will leave Barcelona next season. He has signed a preliminary agreement with Manchester United," Alves's agent Francois Gallardo is quoted as saying. Alves joined Barca from Sevilla, where he won five trophies in six years.

Liverpool’s injury woes continue to dog their season after Brendan Rodgers confirmed Daniel Sturridge will miss another month of action. The Reds have struggled for goals in the striker’s absence, with him having last featured on August 30. Sturridge was set to make his comeback against QPR, but Rodgers stated that wouldn’t happen. "Daniel has pulled his calf," Rodgers told the Liverpool Echo. "He's looking at being out for another two to four weeks. It's a big blow as we were looking forward to welcoming Daniel back. He has worked tirelessly. But we have other players training hard and working hard and we will turn to them. It's why we bulked up the squad in the summer."

Lionel Messi's father Jorge insists his son does not manage his own tax affairs amid allegations of fraud against the two. Lionel is set to face trial over alleged tax evasion, with the Spanish authorities saying he owes around €4million. This income is said to be derived from the Barcelona star's image rights between 2007 and 2009, as well as other sponsorship deals. "I want to be quite cautious over this [topic]," Jorge, who reportedly handles Lionel's tax returns, said. "I have always said it: he [Lionel] had absolutely nothing to do with it, so there is no need to talk about it. My lawyers are dealing with this issue so it's something with me and has nothing to do with him." Lionel, a four-time Ballon d'Or holder, earns an estimated €40m in wages and bonuses, and €22m in endorsements.

Stephen Keshi has been removed as head coach of Nigeria and replaced by a “consortium” of coaches for the side’s final two African Nations Cup qualifiers next month. The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) confirmed the move in a statement last Thursday, despite Keshi leading the Super Eagles to a 3-1 victory over Sudan in Abuja the previous evening, a result that got their qualification campaign back on track.  The consortium will be led by Shaibu Amodu, who returns to the helm for a fifth time, having qualified the side for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa before being replaced by Swede Lars Lagerback. Salisu Yusuf, Gbenga Ogunbote and Aloysius Agu are the other coaches involved in the group to lead the reigning African champions. They will be in charge for next month’s final two qualifiers -- away at Congo and home to South Africa -- but will then be replaced by an overseas coach, the NFF also confirmed.  “The committee, unanimously, praised the contributions of the technical crew of the senior national team, led by Stephen Keshi, to the glorious accomplishments of the team in the past three years and hailed Keshi, Daniel Amokachi and Ike Shorounmu as true national heroes,” the NFF statement said.

Chelsea star Eden Hazard feels he is not one of the best players in the world just yet when compared to “extra-terrestrial” Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The Belgian star has enjoyed a stellar start to the season, featuring in all 10 of Chelsea’s matches while contributing two goals and three assists, yet feels he still needs to up his game in order to be considered as one of the best. "I'm not a top-five player yet,” Hazard told the Daily Telegraph. "Maybe I'm close to it, but I still have to work on some aspects. You can only be part of that group if you are decisive in the top games. I (have started) doing that, like I did against Manchester City and Arsenal. "Who are better than me? The two extra-terrestrials, Ronaldo and Messi, Ibrahimovic, Ribery and Robben. They make the difference almost every game."

Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone believes he and his team-mates should reimburse all the club’s fans who made the long journey to witness the 8-0 hammering at Southampton. The Italian has established himself as Gus Poyet's first choice despite the arrival of former Manchester City man Costel Pantilimon but he endured an afternoon to forget as the Black Cats suffered a humiliating defeat at St Mary's. The Sunderland supporters continued to cheer for their players until the final whistle and Mannone says he wants to meet the costs of the 700-mile away day for the 2,500 fans. "I will personally talk to the team to see if it is possible to pay for their tickets and their trip," he said. "I really mean that we should pay their tickets and travel. I will do everything possible. We should do it because we didn't put a foot in, we didn't work hard." We started the game well but after we conceded we threw in the towel and I include myself. It is difficult for us but it's very difficult for them as well. It is a difficult moment. We will go through it during the week. We will have time. The Premier League is really difficult. We have a tough game again at home, so there is no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We need to react. "As I said they are special fans. We are really lucky to be at this club and have these fans. If it was me, I would probably not react in the same way."

Brendan Rodgers has put an end to reports linking Victor Valdes with a move to Liverpool – after the Reds manager revealed the club would NOT be signing any new players. Valdes was tipped for a move to the Anfield-based outfit following his departure from Barcelona at the end of last season after 12 years with the Catalan giants. It was believed that Rodgers saw the goalkeeper as the perfect competition for Liverpool’s current first-choice shot-stopper, Simon Mignolet, and had invited the 32-year-old for a four-day trial at the club’s Melwood training base. However, reports emerged suggesting that Valdes had turned down the offer – leading to the collapse of any prospective deal – but despite his agent rubbishing such reports, Rodgers has confirmed that the Spaniard will not be joining his side. When asked if he would be signing any Spanish players in the coming months, Rodgers said: ‘No.’

Queens Park Rangers could legally dismiss their ‘overweight’ midfielder Adel Taarabt for failure to fulfil his contract after his condition was blasted by manager Harry Redknapp following the defeat to Liverpool. The Moroccan has played just three times this season for QPR and Redknapp didn’t hold back on his assessment of the 25-year-old after QPR’s dramatic 3-2 defeat against the Reds.  Redknapp said: “He’s not fit to play football unfortunately. He played in a reserve game the other day and I could have run about more than he did. I pick people who want to try, who come in every day and work, train and show a good attitude. When he starts doing that, if he ever can, maybe he’ll get a game. I can’t protect people who don’t want to run and train, and are about three stone overweight. What am I supposed to say? Keep getting your 60, 70 grand a week and don’t train?” According to leading employment lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, Glenn Hayes, the struggling club must give the Moroccan every opportunity to lose weight and support him with this over the coming months, however if the player does not cooperate and is unable to fulfil his contract as a result of his weight, the club could lawfully dismiss the player.

Swansea boss Garry Monk said Stoke's Victor Moses should be "ashamed of himself" and punished for winning his side a penalty against the Swans. Visiting defender Angel Rangel was penalised for a 43rd-minute foul on winger Moses as Swansea were beaten 2-1 at the Britannia Stadium. Monk, whose team are without a win in five league games, said: "Moses should be done for diving, for cheating." Stoke boss Mark Hughes described Monk's comments as "unacceptable". He said: "I actually heard him say that my player was a cheat which is unacceptable in my view. "He's obviously upset. We have to come in here 20 minutes after the game to speak about what's gone on and sometimes you just have to bite your tongue and maybe that will come from experience." Swansea led through a Wilfried Bony penalty, but Stoke levelled through Charlie Adam's spot-kick before substitute Jonathan Walters headed home the winner after the break. In a highly-charged and honest news conference after the match, Monk said:
·         Stoke's penalty was "absolutely disgusting"
·         Only referee Michael Oliver thought it was a spot-kick
·         Referees' chief Mike Riley had not replied to his concerns
·         He would not be able to go home if he were Moses
Monk also said Stoke's penalty had been awarded for "barely minimal contact" between Rangel and Moses. "It was an absolute disgusting decision from the referee," said the 35-year-old. "He is supposed to be a professional referee at the highest level. He's the only guy who thought it was a penalty. Everyone in the stadium was amazed. How he can't see it is a blatant dive is beyond me."

Southampton pair Graziano Pelle and Ronald Koeman have been named the Premier League's player and manager of the month respectively for September. Italian striker Pelle, who joined the club from Feyenoord last summer, edged out team-mate Morgan Schneiderlin to the accolade after netting three goals - including a spectacular overhead-kick winner against QPR. Koeman guided the third-placed Saints to three wins out of three last month, beating Newcastle United, Swansea City and The R's. The Dutchman faced stern competition from Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson, Chelsea's Jose Mourinho and Neil Warnock of Crystal Palace.

Brendan Rodger has defended Mario Balotelli after Liverpool legend Jimmy Case branded the striker “a waste of space”. In an incredible, crazy climax Steven Caulker’s own goal handed the Reds the points after QPR twice drew level in the final eight minutes. But Case was scathing about Balotelli, who missed two gilt-edged chances – one an open goal that he blasted five yards over the bar. Case said: “To be bitterly honest Mario Balotelli is a waste of space at the minute. He is just not a team player.” Rodgers later stuck up for the Italian, saying: “It will drop for the boy. The most important thing for me is his work rate.” Rodgers added: “ The guy is doing his best and working really hard and it is not dropping for him. I would say he would have finished that if Caulker had not put it in. He is seen as the direct replacement for Luis Suarez. And as I said before, Luis is irreplaceable. A real world class talent and that is not what is being asked of Mario.

Indian midfielder Peter Biaksangzuala has died from injuries sustained while celebrating a goal. Biaksangzuala severely damaged his spinal cord when attempting a series of somersaults to celebrate his equaliser for Bethlehem Vengthlang FC during their match against Chanmari West FC last Tuesday. The 23-year-old was taken to Aizawl Civil Hospital and underwent surgery on his spine, but died of his injuries on Sunday morning.