International News - Issue 235

Gerrard Offered New Contract To Stay At Liverpool
Midfielder Steven Gerrard, 34, has been offered a new deal by Liverpool, says manager Brendan Rodgers. The Reds boss has also denied talk of a rift between himself and his captain, whose current deal finishes at the end of this season. Gerrard has already branded rumours of a fallout as "nonsense". Asked if there was a rift, Rodgers, speaking at a news conference before Tuesday's Premier League game at Leicester, said: "No, 150% no." Rodgers said Gerrard will be given time to consider the offer but added that money would not be an issue. "It is a big move not just in his life but in terms of committing where his next contract is going to be," said Rodgers. "There are probably many things Steven would have to think about in a decision like this but it certainly won't be money. I have spoken to him often enough and at length and that won't be the case." "No matter how good a player has been, once they come towards those final years then as manager you are having to think how you can get the best out of the player." He added: "Everyone knows his history at this club. What a player he has been, and still is. I see his talent every day and just need to manage that and think how it can be most effective. "I love working with Steven Gerrard. I've enjoyed every single minute. I hope that continues."

German striker Miroslav Klose has revealed his frustrations at the lack of game-time at Italian club Lazio. The former Germany striker, who hung up his international boots after his side’s successful 2014 World Cup, joined the Serie A side from German giants Bayern Munich two years ago, scoring 24 goals in his first two seasons with the club. Yet the 36-year-old forward has been used sparingly so far this season, starting just four games for the Biancocelesti, who have preferred new Serbian recruit Filip Dordevic upfront, having arrived from French outfit Nantes at the start of the campaign. Following another appearance from the bench in last Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Chievo, the World Cup leading goal-scorer vented his displeasure to the media.  "I will now seek talks with Lazio's bosses and then we will see how this goes on," he said. "I can imagine many things happening; nothing can be excluded in football. I feel healthy and I feel fit. That is why my claim is that I should be playing more often. I am definitely not happy with the current situation." Klose, who scored 71 goals in 137 appearances for Germany, will be out of contract in June next year when his current deal at Lazio comes to an end.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hit out at supporters who have questioned his position at the club. Following two successive league defeats to Swansea and Manchester United, Arsenal secured a 1-0 victory over West Brom last Saturday, yet Wenger still received criticism from the Gunners’ faithful, who unveiled a banner at the match calling for the Frenchman to step down. Wenger, however, angrily hit back at those baying for him to leave the post he took up 18 years ago. "I started to manage a team at the top level in 1983 so, if I am completely useless tactically, I am a genius to hide it so well," Wenger told reporters. "I never know what a Plan B is. I do what I love and I think I do it with honesty and total commitment. I invite you to live with me and see in seven days what kind of work we produce and you will see it's with total commitment.” Wenger insists he is still the right man to lead the London club, having taken them to the knockout stages of the Champions League for a 15th consecutive year with a 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund last week. "I think we have shown extreme consistency and that's all you can do. Look, in the last 15 years we have qualified for the last 16 in the Champions League,” he said. “Give me another club who has done that. There is not another club. We've had ups and downs in the league, but you only come back again when the spirit is strong and healthy and united inside the club. I think if you have shown such a consistency it's because we have that at the club. We have values and we respect them." Arsenal currently lie in sixth spot in the EPL standings, 13 points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

World football governing body Fifa announced the top three nominees for the 2014 Fifa Ballon d’Or, it will be contested by Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer. The initial list of 23 players was whittled down to three after captains and coaches of both the men and women’s teams of all 209 Fifa associations, as well as international media representatives, casted their votes. Firm favourites Messi and Ronaldo, who share six Ballon d’Or trophies between them, made the final cut, alongside Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who becomes the first goalkeeper to make the final shortlist since compatriot Oliver Kahn in 2002. The trio were voted for by 87% of the captains and coaches, while 94% of the media representatives that voted were in favour of the three named above. In the women’s category, Germany’s Nadine Kessler, Brazilian sensation Marta and Abby Wambach from the USA will contest for the title of best women player in the world. The contenders for the FIFA World Coach of the Year for both men’s and women’s football were also revealed. Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti, Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone as well as German national team coach Joachim Low made the top three in the men’s category, while Ralf Kellermann (VfL Wolfsburg), Maren Meinert (Germany U-19 and U-20 national teams) and Norio Sasaki (Japan national team) vie for the coveted women’s coach award. The three nominees for the FIFA Puskas Award for the “most beautiful goal of the year” were also announced, which include Stephanie Roche’s strike for Peamount United against Wexford Youths, James Rodriguez’s World Cup cracker for Colombia against Uruguay as well as Robin van Persie’s diving header for the Netherlands against Spain. All the awards will be presented at the FIFA Ballon d’Or award ceremony in Zurich on 12 January 2015.

Thierry Henry has confirmed that he will leave MLS side New York Red Bulls when his contract expires at the end of 2014. Henry (37) signed for Red Bulls in 2010 and became their second-all-time leading scorer with 51 goals in 122 appearances. The former World Cup winner with France, who remains Arsenal's all-time top scorer with 226 goals in 368 games, has not revealed what the future holds despite being linked with a return to the Gunners. “I am taking this opportunity to announce that unfortunately Saturday was my last game for the New York Red Bulls. The decision has always been that I would leave after the duration of my contract and although that was never going to change, I didn’t want it to distract from the progress of the team,” said Henry. “I have immensely enjoyed my four-and-a-half years here and would like to thank everyone involved with this club who has made my time here so enjoyable.”

Algeria and FC Porto player Yacine Brahimi is the winner of this year’s BBC African Footballer of the Year award. He is the first Algerian player to win in the competition’s 23 year history. Brahimi emerged as the most popular player in a competitive shortlist that included Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon and Borussia Dortmund), Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria and Lille), Gervinho (Ivory Coast and Roma) and 2013 winner Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast and Manchester City). This year’s BBC African Footballer of the Year was the most successful competition to date since the award first launched in 1992 as BBC African Sports Star of the Year. Hundreds of thousands of football fans voted in the 2014 competition from around the world. The BBC’s Peter Okwoche presented Brahimi with his trophy on Monday. Yacine Brahimi said: “It is a huge honour for me to receive this wonderful trophy. I owe it to my country, Algeria; and to all the people who voted for me. It is also a trophy for the whole of Africa, because it rewards an African player.  This trophy is going to give me more strength, more desire to work, to get better and to learn, so that I can keep having great performances. Both the African Cup of Nations and the Champions League are coming, as well as the Portuguese League. These are big opportunities for me. I hope I will be able to achieve big things this year both with my national team and my club." “I am sharing this trophy with my family, with all the African countries and with all the Algerians who have always supported me”. Having played for the French national youth teams, Brahimi was a late addition to Algeria after switching nationalities in 2013. He showed maturity and leadership at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil where Algeria qualified from the group stages for the first time in their World Cup history. Since then he has helped to secure his country’s qualification for next year's Africa Cup of Nations. He has also blossomed in his club career at Porto showing panache in midfield and impressive form in front of goal. Previous winners of the BBC African Footballer of the Year award include: Yaya Toure (2013), Christopher Katongo (2012), AndrĂ© Ayew (2011) and Asamoah Gyan (2010).

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has bemoaned the Premier League's busy festive schedule, saying it "is not good for the players". United, who moved up to fourth on the table with a 3-0 win over visiting Hull City on Saturday, will play seven games this month. "I don't think it's good for the football players that they play within two days another match, but in December, it shall be like that," Van Gaal said. "I am not happy, but I cannot change it. We also have families. I also have a wife and kids and grandchildren and I cannot see them this Christmas, but I want to work in the Premier League, I have to adapt and I shall adapt. But I don't think it is good for players, neither for the families." The Red Devils next host Stoke City on Tuesday, with Van Gaal naturally targeting another victory at Old Trafford. 

Real Madrid have broken a club record for most consecutive victories. Los Blancos beat Malaga 2-1 last night thanks to goals from Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, both assisted by Cristiano Ronaldo. It was their 16th win in a row, bettering the 15 set by Jose Mourinho’s team of 2011, and Miguel Munoz’s 1961 outfit.

Sewe Sport will take a 2-1 lead into the second leg of the 2014 CAF Confederation Cup Final after a late goal secured a home win over Al Ahly on Saturday. Koffi Kouame gave the Ivorian club the lead in the 24th minute before Mahmoud Hassan equalised with an important away-goal for the Egyptians. However, Roger Assale had the final say at Stade Robert Champroux in Abidjan, netting in the 81st minute to give his side a slender advantage heading into the second leg. Al Ahly take on Sewe Sport in Cairo on 6 December.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has given the go ahead for the club to organise a Christmas Party for the team, following their glittering start to the season. The Blues are currently unbeaten in all competitions so far this season, and Mourinho feels it is only right to reward the players for the commitment and effort they have put in thus far. “Probably, because of that, the club is preparing a little Christmas party for them and their families,” said the Portuguese. “Maybe because their families also deserve it. For good things, we’ll find the time. The traditional hospital visits and charity stuff, we also have time for that. And because this is a squad with lots of kids – young guys with kids from a couple of weeks to 10 years old – I think it will be good for them.” Chelsea were meant to have a Christmas Party last year too, which included an organised dinner at one of London’s top restaurants as well as a night out clubbing, however, a shock loss to Sunderland in the League Cup prompted the boss to abandon the plans. This time around, though, the two-time Premier League-winning mentor feels the players and their families are more deserving of the festivities. “There are Christmas parties and ‘Christmas parties’,” said Mourinho. “This one I think the families deserve and the boys are very happy to be with their families. My kids are 14 and 18. I don’t think they belong at this [kind of] party. But I think I have to go to say a couple of words and after that, to leave the players there with their families and kids.”

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers says he will give his utmost to the club in order to stay at Anfield for as long as possible, and insists that a fourth place finish is within grasp. “No matter how we have been we are still within touching distance of the initial aim, which was fourth and then moving forward,” he said. “The players have the experience from last season and I have every belief that we can do it. Sometimes things are never as bad as people say or write. They are not always as good as people say or write either. You just have to stay calm. We will improve but we need to show it through our actions on the field.” After being tipped as the bookmakers’ favourite to face the axe, Rodgers says, whether he stays or goes, he will do his level best in trying to improve the side’s performances and results. “I will fight for my life to be here for as long as I can,” he added. “You never like seeing or hearing things like you are the bookies’ favourite to get the sack when six months ago I was manager of the year but that is modern football. All I can do is my best and I will continue to do my best. While I do that I can relax knowing that whenever that time comes from the owners, whether it is in one month or 10 years, I will walk out of here knowing I have given my absolute all to give the club what it wants. I am happy with that,” concluded the 41-year-old.

Zimbabwe will not be represented in the CAF Champions League after Dynamos decided not to participate for financial reasons. The club announced the decision on Thursday after a meeting with their sponsors Banc ABC, who revealed that they were not able to fund the team's campaign in the tournament. "We had a meeting with our sponsors and they said they are unable to finance,” club chairman Keni Mubaiwa says. “As a club we do not have the resources and I want to apologise to our fans, our players and our coaches in telling them we are unable to participate in the Champions League.”  The latest development means Zimbabwe will not be represented in the CAF Champions League, while FC Platinum are still to confirm whether they will play in the Confederation Cup. The continental football body has given all countries up to November 30 to register clubs for the tournaments. Dynamos are Zimbabwe's most successful club in African football after reaching the Champions League Final in 1998, and the semi-finals 10 years later. They also reached the group stage in 1999 and 2010. Dynamos won their fourth consecutive league title after finishing two points ahead of ZPC Kariba in a competition that was decided on the last day of action.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has undergone surgery and will miss the next three months of action for his London club. The 22-year-old suffered a late challenge from Manchester United’s Paddy McNair in his side’s 2-1 defeat to the Red Devils last weekend, and later tests revealed the damage was more serious than initially thought. “Jack Wilshere has had successful surgery on his left ankle and will be out for approximately three months,” read a statement on Arsenal’s official website. “An assessment with a specialist confirmed the need for an operation and the 22-year-old had successful surgery to his ankle in London on Thursday afternoon.” The England international took to Instagram to let his fans know that “everything went well”, before posting an inspiring message as he contends with yet another injury set-back. "Work hard for what you want because it won't come to you without a fight," he wrote. "You have to be strong and courageous and know that you can do anything you put your mind to. If somebody puts you down or criticises you, just keep on believing in yourself and turn it into something positive."

Former Chelsea boss Avram Grant is the new coach of Ghana after agreeing a 27-month contract, the country's football association announced last Thursday. The 54-year-old Israeli, who missed out on Champions League glory with Chelsea in 2008 after a penalty shootout defeat in the final against Manchester United, will lead Ghana in January's African Nations Cup finals. Grant replaces Kwesi Appiah, who led the Black Stars at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but was fired in September. Ghana FA president Kwesi Nyantakyi told a news conference that he had been given a mandate to "do well at the 2015 Nations Cup and win the 2017 Nations Cup".  It is a second international assignment for Grant, who coached Israel between 2002-06, narrowly failing to qualify for the World Cup in Germany. He has also had spells in charge of West Ham United and Portsmouth. Grant's most recent job was at Partizan Belgrade where he spent the final five months of the 2011/12 season and guided the team to the Serbian title before resigning with a year remaining on his contract.

Brazil legend Pele is still recovering in intensive care after undergoing surgery last week. The former Selecao star was hospitalised after being diagnosed with a urinary tract infection having had his kidney stones removed last month. He then underwent a further operation on his kidney which has proved successful, with doctors at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paolo confirming he was “lucid and stable” following the operation. Pele is reportedly showing good signs of recovery and is responding well to antibiotics, and should be out of hospital by the end of the week, with son Edinho telling reporters his father was “very upbeat”. However, the danger is not fully over, as even though the doctors have stopped administering dialysis to the former footballer, they say he may still need further treatment if needed. “The renal support treatment was suspended until tomorrow [Monday], when its necessity will be re-evaluated,” the Albert Einstein Hospital said in a statement.