International News - Issue 234

Messi Becomes La Liga’s All Time Top Goalscorer
Lionel Messi became the Spanish league's all-time top scorer with a hat-trick against Sevilla. Having failed to score in his last three La Liga matches, the Argentine finally surpassed Telmo Zarra's 251 goals for Athletic Bilbao after converting a sublime free-kick to send him on his way. While Jordi Alba's own goal momentarily threatened to spoil Messi's night, Neymar made it 2-1 in the 49th minute. Ivan Rakitic then nodded in a header before Messi's record breaking strike sent the Nou Camp crowd into delirium. The match eventually finished 5-1 to Barca on a historic night. Remarkably, the 27-year-old magician's goal tally came in just 250 starts for the Spanish giants. After the strike which took him past Zarra's total, Messi's team-mates threw him into the air while the crowd at the Nou Camp roared with approval. Neymar, the Brazilian superstar, bowed down to his teammate in admiration. The Argentine is the Champions League's joint highest goal scorer while he already has four Ballon d'Or trophies to his name. Raul's European record of 71 goals tumbled last month after Messi scored twice in Barcelona's 2-0 victory against Ajax. "Messi is without doubt the best player I've seen as a player and a coach," said Barca manager Luis Enrique after the match.

Dynamos have for the fourth year in succession won the Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League title and can therefore represent the country in the CAF Champions League next year. The popular Harare side finished on 57 points from 30 games, a point ahead of second-placed ZPC Kariba. Going into the last games of the 2014 season, Dynamos were two points behind ZPC Kariba but a 2-0 win over How Mine, which was coupled by ZPC Kariba¹s 3-2 loss at the hands of Caps United, saw the 1998 Caf Champions League finalists win the title. This is also coach Kalisto Pasuwa's fourth title in a row - a new Zimbabwean record. Pasuwa said he would need to buy more players should Dynamos decide to embark on the CAF Champions League journey. However, club chairman Keni Mubaiwa said they are still to decide whether to play in the tournament as they currently cannot afford such a financially demanding assignment. Dynamos are the most successful Zimbabwean club in the CAF Champions League after reaching the Final in 1998 and the semi-finals 10 years later. They also reached the mini-league stage in 1999 and 2010. For winning the Zimbabwean League, Dynamos received US$100 000.

Milan coach Filippo Inzaghi insists out-of-form striker Fernando Torres still has the club’s backing after yet another ineffective display in his side’s 1-1 draw with rivals Inter Milan. Milan took the lead on 23 minutes through a fine Jeremy Menez finish, before Inter equalised through Nigerian international Joel Obi early in the second half, with neither team able to find the winner as the points were shared last night. Torres was replaced by Japanese international Keisuke Honda with 17 minutes remaining after failing to trouble Inter shot-stopper Samir Handanovic, yet coach Filippo Inzaghi is backing his new recruit to fire soon. "I believe Torres will soon get back on the scoresheet and I hope so, as we need his goals," the Rossoneri boss said. "I tried to improve the level of quality in attack with players like [Keisuke] Honda, [Jeremy] Menez, [Stephan] El Shaarawy and [Giacomo] Bonaventura to provide better service for him. I am trying to put the best team out to get the best out of him. He does well in training, but not every game goes the same way.” Inzaghi once again used the comparison to Argentina striker Hernan Crespo, who also took a while to find his scoring form before shining in the red and black of Milan. "Torres gives his all and I always use the example of Hernan Crespo,” he said. “Carlo Ancelotti stuck with him when he didn't score for two months, then when he made the breakthrough he never stopped scoring." The result leaves Milan in seventh place on the Serie A standings, while Inter remain ninth.

Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski wants to talk to manager Arsene Wenger about his lack of game-time, saying he has no intention of "sitting out his contract in the stands". The Germany international is yet to start a Premier League or Champions League game this season - much to his obvious frustration. "I love London, I love the club but I don't like the situation," Podolski said. "I'm not a buffoon who sits out his contract in the stands. I have to try to talk to Arsene Wenger. I want a fair chance." Podolski penned a long-term deal with the Gunners in April 2012 from Bundesliga side FC Koln.

League One side Sheffield United have turned down their initial offer to allow convicted rapist Ched Evans to train with the club. The striker was convicted of rape in April 2012, but was released from prison last month having served half his sentence. His club then released a statement on 11 November in which they stated that at the request of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), Evans would be allowed to train with his former club. The announcement was received with much debate, as four patrons from the club resigned while two of the club’s main kit sponsors threatened to pull out. United have subsequently retracted their offer to Evans, issuing a lengthy statement on their official website:

Ebola-ravaged Guinea overcame considerable odds to book an African Nations Cup finals place last Wednesday but must still overcome difficult logistical arrangements and rampant prejudice as they look ahead to the tournament in January. Guinea is one of the African countries hit hardest by the ravages of the deadly hemorrhagic fever, which has claimed more than 1 100 lives in Guinea alone. They have had to overcome a ban on playing at home, moving their matches to a neutral venue after the Confederation of African Football banned the hosting of international matches in Guinea. Their clubs have also been pressured into not playing on the continent for fear they may be infected, although the vast majority if the squad are drawn from European-based clubs. The latest is Borussia Monchengladbach’s Ibrahima Traore, who scored for Guinea in their decisive tie against Uganda on Wednesday to secure qualification, who was threatened with isolation from his Bundesliga team mates when he returned. “We have had to go around in a very strange context,” coach Michel Dussuyer said in interviews this week, “with health checks and fleeting glances.” Twice a day they had their temperature checked in Morocco, which allowed them to play their ‘home’ games in Casablanca even though fears over the spread of Ebola have led to the north African country losing the right to host the upcoming Nations Cup. There have been some measures we’ve felt have been discriminatory and when you have your temperature taken twice a day it can get annoying. But everything really is in the attitude of people you meet and the strange responses we get.” But the coach also thanked Morocco for allowing them to play their qualifiers in Casablanca and Benin, where they held training camps. Guinea will also need more help to finding a venue to be able to train for the two weeks in January, before the Nations Cup kick off, when they are free to assemble all their players. The search for a suitable venue for a training camp will begin immediately.

Manchester United have moved quickly to cover a social media error that had ruled out midfielder Daley Blind for six months. The Dutch international was stretchered off in the Oranje’s 6-0 drubbing of Latvia on Saturday, after which Manchester United tweeted that their new signing would be out for the next six months. Yet the extent of Blind’s injury seems to have been over-estimated, as Louis van Gaal clarified the matter in a press conference on Thursday. "Blind is not ready to play,” the Red Devils manager said. “He has now a brace on his knee, 10 days' rest, then we have to make another scan and we can say more about his injury. It's not so bad as the doctors are thinking after the match, but it shall be a long story, I believe, but not six months or something."

Egypt and defending champions Nigeria are the two big names who failed to qualify for the 2015 African Cup of Nations. The 16 participating teams have now been confirmed as follows:
Hosts: Equatorial Guinea
Group A: Bafana Bafana (winners), Congo (runners-up)
Group B: Algeria, Mali
Group C: Gabon, Burkina Faso
Group D: Cameroon, Ivory Coast
Group E: Ghana, Guinea
Group F: Cape Verde, Zambia
Group G: Tunisia, Senegal

Bayern Munich midfielder Xabi Alonso has described teammate Manuel Neuer as by far the best goalkeeper he has ever played with. The German gloveman has been in stellar form in recent years, guiding his club side to consecutive Bundesliga titles while proving heroic in Germany’s victorious 2014 World Cup campaign. And new club teammate Xabi Alonso, who has played alongside some of the world’s greatest keepers including Spain’s number one Iker Casillas, believes Neuer is by far the greatest goalkeeper he has ever played with. "I must say that he is not only by far the best goalkeeper with whom I have ever played but also as an 11th outfield player he is outstanding," the 32-year-old said. Alonso admits that Neuer, as well as versatile midfielder David Alaba, were the two that have most impressed him at Bayern since his transfer window move from Real Madrid at the start of the season. "Of course I already knew that he was world class but, along with David Alaba, he has nevertheless surprised me in Bavaria by how strong he really is," the Spanish midfielder said.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers says Daniel Sturridge is as "down as I've ever seen him" following news that the striker will be out until the new year with a fresh thigh injury. The 25-year-old injured his thigh in training on Tuesday and scans show a different problem to the ones that have limited him to three games this season. "He's a player who doesn't want to be out for this length of time. He wants to play football," said Rodgers. He's just been extremely unfortunate." Sturridge, who scored 25 goals last season, suffered a thigh strain while with England in September before picking up a calf strain in training in October. He had only returned to full training last week before picking up his latest injury. "He's as down as I've ever seen him," added Rodgers. "Now is the time for him to go away and see what more we can do to get him on the pitch consistently because he is a world class talent and he will only fulfil that if he is playing games. He wants that more than anyone. Daniel has had up to nine injuries on that same thigh over a period time, not just over the last six or seven months. Rodgers criticised England's handling of Sturridge after he was originally ruled out for up to three weeks.

Philipp Lahm had successful surgery on a broken ankle and will remain in hospital for a few more days. The club captain, who will be out for about three months, sustained the injury last Tuesday in training. “His ankle was fixed with a plate and a screw and he will remain in hospital for some days,” the club said in a statement. “He will then need to protect the leg for several weeks before starting his rehabilitation.” Bayern are already without the injured midfielders Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martínez as well as David Alaba, Holger Badstuber and the forward Claudio Pizarro. The substitute goalkeepers Pepe Reina and Tom Starke are also sidelined.

Mikel Arteta says it is "not fair" that Arsenal lost to Manchester United despite dominating possession and restricting Louis van Gaal's side to two shots on target. The Gunners captain was at a loss to explain how they contrived to lose 2-1 at the Emirates despite having 23 shots and 61% possession. "I’m shocked," said Arteta. "I think we played our best game this season in terms of what we demand of ourselves – the quality in the way we attacked, how we won the ball back, how consistent we were throughout, the amount of chances we created. When you are in the box and you can’t manage to score in that many situations, you can’t expect to win. It’s not fair for the players and the fans. How can I explain the result? I can’t. I am shocked and frustrated because we did not deserve this result considering the opposition we were playing against.”