International News - Issue 230



Ronaldo Named Last Season’s Best La Liga Player
Cristiano Ronaldo was named the Player of the Season for the 2013/14 La Liga campaign on Monday night. The Real Madrid playmaker took the top honour in a list dominated by his teammates, with only Andres Iniesta breaking up the Los Blancos dominance. Ronaldo scored 31 goals in 30 games to become only the second player to win the title, with Lionel Messi having claimed the previous five honours. Unsurprisingly, the Portuguese star was also named Best Attacker and claimed the Goal of the Season award. Diego Simeone was named Coach of the Year for guiding Atletico Madrid to La Liga title, while Rafinha Alcantara was named the Revelation of the Campaign. Former Levante man Keylor Navas was Goalkeeper of the Season, Sergio Ramos Defender of the Season and Luka Modric Defensive Midfielder of the Season. Inietsa was the sole Barca representative, claiming Attacking Midfielder of the Season.

Luis Suarez’s name is not on the shortlist of 23 candidates for this year’s World Player of the Year, or Fifa Ballon d’Or to give its proper title. Yaya Toure of Manchester City and Ivory Coast is the lone representative of Africa; his commanding play as City won the English Premiership seemingly trumping the fact that he had a very a disappointing World Cup. On the 23, there is space for two goalkeepers and just a couple of defensive players. Perhaps the most noteworthy inclusion is that of young French midfielder, Paul Pogba of Italian champions Juventus.

Men’s shortlist for the Fifa Ballon d’Or 2014 (in alphabetical order):
Gareth Bale (Wales), Karim Benzema (France), Diego Costa (Spain), Thibaut Courtois (Belgium), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Angel Di Maria (Argentina), Mario Goetze (Germany), Eden Hazard (Belgium), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Toni Kroos (Germany), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Javier Mascherano (Argentina), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Mueller (Germany), Manuel Neuer (Germany), Neymar (Brazil), Paul Pogba (France), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Arjen Robben (Netherlands), James Rodriguez (Colombia), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)

Ten coaches (in alphabetical order, first nationality and then team) in contention for the Fifa World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football 2014:
Carlo Ancelotti (Italy/Real Madrid CF), Antonio Conte (Italy/Juventus FC/Italy national team), Pep Guardiola (Spain/FC Bayern Munich), Juergen Klinsmann (Germany/ USA national team), Joachim Loew (Germany/Germany national team), Jose Mourinho (Portugal/Chelsea FC), Manuel Pellegrini (Chile/Manchester City FC), Alejandro Sabella (Argentina/Argentina national team), Diego Simeone (Argentina/Atletico Madrid), Louis van Gaal (Netherlands/Netherlands national team/Manchester United FC)

Ten women (in alphabetical order) in contention for the Fifa Women’s World Player of the Year 2014:
Nadine Angerer (Germany), Veronica Boquete (Spain), Nilla Fischer (Sweden), Nahomi Kawasumi (Japan), Nadine Kessler (Germany), Marta (Brazil), Aya Miyama (Japan), Louisa Necib (France), Lotta Schelin

Zinedine Zidane has been banned from the bench for three months for not having the correct coaching qualifications. The former French international is in charge of Real Madrid’s reserve side, having vacated his spot as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant at the start of the season. Zidane has a Uefa A Licence – or Level 2 in Spain – but needs a Level 3 to do the job. The former World Cup winner must now obtain the correct badges before April 2015 to continue in the job. “The club did everything it could and I will continue to do everything possible to defend myself," Zidane said. “I have no regrets about having spent my degrees in France. If I had to do it all over then I'd do exactly the same things. It's still amazing that there are so few people defending me and explaining that I did not have special privilege. I did not circumvent the obstacles and some just took this as an opportunity to spit on me."

Juventus managing director Giuseppe Marotta has claimed the Italian champions were close to signing Radamel Falcao before Manchester United flexed their financial muscle. United landed Falcao for £6 million on loan from Monaco on 1 September, with the Colombian striker believed to be on a lucrative pay packet at Old Trafford. "We were following him and there was contact," Marotta said. "We were very close to [signing] Falcao and the player preferred Italy and our colours, but then United came forward and they have much more spending power than we do so the deal broke down." He added: "The quality of our league has fallen behind. Serie A used to be the league everybody strived to play in, but it's no longer like that today. The best players want to play abroad." Falcao missed his side's 1-1 home draw with Chelsea on Sunday, having previously scored once in five appearances for the Red Devils.

England and Liverpool are relying too heavily on teenage attacker Raheem Sterling, so says former Reds skipper Graeme Souness. Sterling, 19, has been arguably the Merseysiders' best player this season, while his influence continues to grow at international level. "It is true [Liverpool] are placing a lot of responsibility on him but the same can be said of England and if they are relying on a 19-year-old kid then I think it does not reflect well on England's group," Souness said. "The same can be said for Liverpool: if you are relying on a 19-year-old to deliver in big games for you it is not how it should be." Souness also criticised Liverpool's defensive organisation, with the seventh-placed club conceding 12 goals in nine Premier League games this season. "They are conceding bad goals now and if you are doing that it drains confidence and they must be at that point now," said the Scot. "It is not about what type of football you are trying to play; you can play the football you want but if you are conceding poor goals it drains confidence. Liverpool have to get back to stop giving away daft goals - especially at set-pieces - and then start again and rebuild confidence. From where they were last year to where they are now they are a team playing without great confidence. It is not just about back four and goalkeeper; if your midfield is working hard to stop quality balls being played into your back four the defence has a far better chance to deal with the crosses. But they are not putting the ball under pressure and the guy is able to cross it."

Luka Modric says Real Madrid's 3-1 win over Barcelona on Saturday was the team's best performance since he joined Los Blancos from Tottenham in August 2012. Madrid fell behind to Neymar's early opener but hit back with through a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty, Pepe header and Karim Benzema strike at the Santiago Bernabeu. The result took Real within a point of La Liga leaders Barca. "This was Madrid's best performance since I got here. We showed what we can do against top opposition. We showed that nobody can fight us if we make good use of our quality," Modric said. "We could have scored even more. But beating a team that hadn't conceded a single goal until this game 3-1 is a great performance. This win is a big boost for us, but we shouldn't get carried away. Barcelona are still one point clear." The Croatian midfielder conceded his side felt the pressure early into the marquee fixture.

Ghana have been disqualified from participating at the Under-17 African Youth Championship in Niger next year for fielding an ineligible player. CAF took the decision following a protest by Cameroon claiming overage players were fielded in Ghana's final qualifier. Cameroon protested against seven players they felt were overage, with the organising committee finding one of them guilty as charged. The Ghana Football Association (GFA) insists the player in question is of the correct age and say it was confirmed by MRI reports from Ghana, one of which was in the presence of a CAF medical officer. However, CAF wrote to the GFA on Saturday claiming the analysis of the MRI report from a medical centre in Ghana contradicts the analysis of two CAF medical experts on the eligibility of one of the players. CAF has now overturned that result and reinstated the Cameroonians, which means they have qualified for the tournament to be held in Niger next year.

Former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson said he is insulted by suggestions he left David Moyes an ageing squad. Ferguson led United to a 20th Premier League crown in 2012/13 before retiring, with his recommended successor Moyes lasting just 10 months in the job as the club failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 19 years last term.  "It is an insult to say that I left an ageing squad," said Ferguson at a book launch to publicise his updated autobiography. "Chelsea have seven players over 30 but nobody talks about them being an old team. It is easy to defend myself against all of that because all the statistics are there. "I think he should have kept Mike Phelan, he was a United man; loyal, hard-working and a good judge of the players. My advice to David was that he should maybe keep Mike Phelan. I was always supportive of David, whenever he called I gave him the advice I would have wanted when I was manager. But David will do well in the future: life doesn't end when you leave United."

Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal has hinted that the club may sign former FC Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who was announced to have been training at Old Trafford. Valdes is currently a free agent, after his contract with the Catalan club expired at the end of June this year, and is recovering from a knee injury that he suffered in March. United earlier this week released a statement to announce that the Spanish goalkeeper was completing his rehab at the club’s medical centre, and would resume training with the first team once he has completed his recovery. Van Gaal has refused to rule out the possibility of Valdes joining The Red Devils once he has returned to full fitness and says that he is always monitoring players to add to his ranks. “Manchester United always have their eyes open,” he said. “I have done it already with a lot of players. I have a relationship with a lot of players. I gave Ronald de Boer or Edgar Davids rehabilitation possibility or training possibility when they needed that, so he [Valdes] is one of these players. “Robin van Persie also, when he played for me in the Dutch squad last year, I allowed him to come to our medical department to get him fit for the World Championship [World Cup]. I have always done that, and not only with big players but ones you’ve never heard of,” added the United coach. Should Valdes and United reach an agreement for the Spaniard to join the club, the goalkeeper will be free to do so immediately as his “free agent” status allows him to join outside of the transfer window. With fellow Spaniard goalkeeper David De Gea maintaining his status as United’s first choice, with little competition from Anders Lindegaard, Sam Johnstone and Ben Amos, Van Gaal may well look to the former Barca shot-stopper to bolster his side’s goalkeeping department. The former Barcelona coach himself handed Valdes his Blaugrana debut in 2002 and ended up being Van Gaal’s first choice keeper until the Dutchman moved away from the Camp Nou in 2003.

Chelsea captain John Terry has claimed he and fellow defender Branislav Ivanovic were "double headlocked at every corner" during the Premier League leaders' 1-1 draw against Manchester United on Sunday. Chelsea remain unbeaten and four points clear of second-placed Southampton, but they were denied an eighth win from nine matches by Robin van Persie's injury-time equaliser which cancelled out Didier Drogba's header. Van Persie's goal came after Ivanovic had been sent off by referee Phil Dowd for two bookable offences after twice fouling United winger Angel di Maria.  But Terry suggested on Instagram that it was the Chelsea right-back and himself who were sinned against, rather than sinners. Terry wrote: "It shows how well we are playing when you come away from Old Trafford disappointed with one point. Frustrated not to come away with three points. Thanks to all the travelling fans for your great support. "#JtandIVAgotdoubleheadlockedfromeverycorner." Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was upset at the decision to send off Ivanovic and felt his side should have had a penalty for a foul on the Serbian by United defender Chris Smalling. He said after the game: "The red card, I was seeing it coming. If I have to speak about the second yellow I have to speak about lots of things. The penalty that Ivanovic should have been given (after wrestling with Smalling), the accumulation of yellow cards, the throw-ins. I know I speak always with my heart and get in trouble." Former Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino also entered the debate by calling for more penalties to be awarded to stop 'grappling' in the box. Cascarino said that Chelsea should have been awarded two spot-kicks against United when Terry and Ivanovic were 'wrestled' to the ground.

Reports in India claim that former Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits coach Antonio Lopez Habas punched former France international Robert Pires in the face during an Indian Super League match. Habas is coaching Atletico de Kolkata, owned by La Liga giants Atletico Madid, and reportedly attacked Pires in the tunnel during halftime of the ill-tempered match against FC Goa. Former Brazilian great Zico, who coach FC Goa, told reporters after the match: "One of our players said that he was beaten by the coach of the other team. "Pires said he was punched on the face by the Atletico coach and it is very shameful. I am telling you what my players told me and I didn't see that myself but I don't think that Pires will lie and say something that didn't happen."

Despite scoring a stoppage-time equaliser against Chelsea on Sunday, Robin van Persie has been criticised by his manager Louis van Gaal for his delirious celebration after finding the net. With the Red Devils heading for defeat at Old Trafford, Dutchman Van Persie smashed home a 94th-minute equaliser to make it 1-1 after Thibaut Courtois could only parry a Marouane Fellaini header. There was inevitable bedlam as the home side claimed an important point, and the United players crowded in on Van Persie, per the Manchester Evening News' Samuel Luckhurst, before the captain whipped his shirt off as he celebrated in front of the crowd: Referee Phil Dowd was forced to issue Van Persie with a yellow card, and Van Gaal was not impressed with his skipper's conduct: "He did a stupid reaction after the goal. You can be excited, but you don’t have to pull your shirt off, because then you have a yellow card. It’s not so smart."

Mike Ashley has effectively taken control of Rangers following the resignation of chief executive Graham Wallace. The London Stock Exchange has confirmed that Ashley's £2million emergency loan offer has been accepted. One of the conditions of the loan was the resignation of Wallace and Ashley's deal will allow him to choose two directors to replace Wallace and Philip Nash, who also left the club on Friday. The Newcastle United owner's long term vision has been given the backing of Rangers' institutional investors, most significantly by Sandy Easdale who controls 26% of shares. The long-term retail and naming rights contracts Ashley holds with Rangers have helped him consolidate a power base at the club. The SFA are expected to contact Rangers in due course for clarification on Ashley's involvement at the club. The association have an agreement that Ashley cannot own more than 10% of shares, nor can he have undue influence over boardroom matters; however it is unclear whether the SFA would be able to act in any way if Ashley does not increase his personal shareholding. Earlier this year Ashley committed to remaining at Newcastle until at least the summer of 2016; but it is believed he sees Rangers as a viable and profitable asset going forwards, especially if the club returns to the Scottish Premiership and ultimately European competition. On Friday, the board of Rangers voted to accept the offer of an emergency loan from Ashley, thus rejecting one from Sale Sharks owner Brian Kennedy. Kennedy, who was a member of the Blue Knights consortium which failed to stop the club from sinking into liquidation in the summer of 2012, had made a last-gasp £3million counter offer. Rangers manager Ally McCoist is not concerned about his future following the news that Mike Ashley has effectively taken control of the club Last week, former director Dave King failed to reach an agreement with the Rangers board over a proposed £16million cash injection into the Scottish Championship club. King has already returned to South Africa after talks broke down without an agreement. Backed by former Blue Knight Paul Murray and wealthy fan George Letham, King was looking for a controlling stake at Ibrox in return for a cash injection. Rangers’ most recent interim accounts in March of this year showed losses of £3.5million for the final six months of 2013, with the same amount available in cash reserves.