International News - Issue 241

Ronaldo Retains Ballon d’Or

Real Madrid and Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo has been voted as the World’s Best Player for 2014. The Los Blancos goal machine picked up the Ballon d’Or for the third time in his career, fending off perennial rival Lionel Messi and German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to the award, which he received at a glamourous awards ceremony in Zurich. Ronaldo received 36.66% of the votes, well ahead of second-placed Messi (15.76%) and Neuer (15.72%). The 29-year-old enjoyed a stellar 2014, scoring 52 goals in 43 matches in all competitions as he helped his Spanish club to their coveted tenth Uefa Champions League title. Other major winners on the night included Germany’s Nadine Kessler, who was awarded the Fifa Women’s Player of the Year, while Joachim Low received the Coach of the Year accolade for leading his German side to glory at last year’s World Cup.

All winners in various Fifa categories:
FIFA World Player of the Year, 2014 Ballon d'Or winner: Cristiano Ronaldo
FIFA Woman's World Player of the Year: Nadine Kessler (Germany)
Best Goal of the Year (Puskas Award): James Rodriguez (Colombia vs Uruguay, 2014 World Cup)
FIFA Fairplay Award: All volunteers at all Fifa tournaments
FIFA Men's Coach of the Year: Joachim Low (Germany)
FIFA Woman's Coach of the Year: Ralf Kellermann (Wolfsburg)
FIFA Presidential Award: Hiroshi Kagawa (Japanese journalist)
FIFA FiFPro World XI: Neuer; Silva, Luiz, Lahm, Ramos; Iniesta, Kroos, Di Maria; Ronaldo, Messi, Robben

Argentina and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi says he does not know whether or not he will still be at the Camp Nou in 2016. Speaking just ahead of the awards ceremony, Messi said he is unsure where he will ply his trade next year, with the possibility of fulfilling his dream of returning to Argentinean boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys a possibility. “I am not sure what’s going to happen, whether I’ll go back to Newell’s,” the 27-year-old said. “I don’t know where I’ll be next year. I always said I’d like to finish my career at Barca and then play at Newell’s but nobody knows what the future holds, especially in the football world where so many things can change overnight.” Messi comments come in stark contrast to his statement on Sunday evening following Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Atletico in which he rubbished reports of a move away from the Catalans. “I never demanded anything to stay, as I have no intention of leaving. It is not good to look for rivalry between Luis Enrique and me, because there is none,” he said after the match. Despite definite unease with the Spanish giants in recent weeks, Messi has continued his impressive form this season, with 25 goals in 25 matches in all competitions for the La Liga side.

Arsenal defender Mathieu Debuchy dislocated a shoulder during his side's 3-0 Premier League win over Stoke City on Sunday. The French right-back collided with Stoke's Marko Arnautovic before landing awkwardly and was replaced by Hector Bellerin after 13 minutes at Emirates Stadium. The Gunners went on to win courtesy of two goals from Alexis Sanchez, who set up Laurent Koscielny for the other goal. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said after the match: "It's dislocated so it will take a while. He will have to see a specialist." The 29-year-old has already missed three months of the season with an ankle injury. Calum Chambers and Bellerin are again expected to deputise at right-back.

Wolfsburg midfielder and Belgium youth international Junior Malanda was killed in a car accident on Saturday. The 20-year-old was a passenger in a Volkswagen Touareg that was traveling toward Hannover for training when it went off the road near Bielefeld in western Germany, police said. "The car broke through the right guardrail, hit a tree and flipped over several times in the embankment. The car came to a stop on its roof. One person was thrown out of the vehicle by the accident and died at the scene," police said in a statement. “This was the 20-year-old Belgian Bundesliga player of VFL Wolfsburg, Bernhard Geoffrey Malanda Adje." The driver and another passenger, both also 20-year-old Belgians, were seriously injured and taken to nearby hospitals. The motorway was blocked for about two hours. "The car was totally destroyed in the accident. At the time, there was heavy rain and gale-force winds," the police statement said. Malanda was due to leave for Wolfsburg's training camp in South Africa late on Saturday but the club cancelled their scheduled departure as fans gathered at the Volkswagen Arena to mourn the midfielder. Sporting director Klaus Allofs said in a statement: "We are all deeply saddened and our disbelief can hardly be put into words. We all loved him. He was the good spirit of our team and a fun-loving person. In addition, Junior was an excellent football player who was only at the very beginning of his development. We still cannot believe that he is no longer with us. Our thoughts at this difficult time are with his family and loved ones."

Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale was jeered by his team's supporters despite scoring in their 3-0 win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Welshman squandered an opportunity to hand teammate Cristiano Ronaldo an open goal during Madrid's La Liga clash against Espanyol on Saturday, when he opted to shoot rather than pass to the reigning World Player of the Year. Fans at the Bernabeu raised their voices in frustration at the former Tottenham attacker despite him scroing a thunderous free-kick to hand his side a 2-0 lead in the first half. Ronaldo also reacted in disapproval of Bale's decision to shoot rather than to pass, however, coach Carlo Ancelotti downplayed the incident and hailed the world's most expensive player's free-kick. "Later on the fans wanted him to pass to Cristiano but forwards are determined to score when they are through on the goalkeeper," Ancelotti said in a press conference. "Generosity is very important and if someone is being selfish then we will address it. The supporters are very demanding when it comes to the important players and Bale is one of those," he added. However, Ancelotti has warned not to read too much into yesterday's incident, and says relations between Bale and Ronaldo are "very good". "We shouldn't blow this out of proportion. It's one moment in a football game," said the Italian. "Relations between them (Bale and Ronaldo) and everyone are very good. We are all pursuing the same goal which is to lift Real Madrid as high as possible."

Cristiano Ronaldo has been voted in the users’ Team of the Year 2014 for the ninth time, spearheading the dream time alongside rival Lionel Messi.  The 2014 Team of the Year, as voted for by 8.6 million users, was revealed and includes six players from the 2013 side, along with three debutants. Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Sergio Ramos, David Alaba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo all made it once again after their inclusion last year, while Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin, Manchester United’s Angel Di Maria and Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos are included for the first time. Five of the chosen players ply their trade in La Liga, with four of Bayern Munich’s men making the dream XI. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the only Ligue 1 player in the side, with the English Premier League sole representative being Di Maria. Barcelona ace Lionel Messi features for the sixth time, with fierce rival Cristiano Ronaldo making the team for the ninth time – and the eighth successive year. users' Team of the Year 2014
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich & Germany)
Defender: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid & Spain)
Defender: Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich & Germany)
Defender: David Alaba (Bayern Munich & Austria)
Defender: Diego Godín (Atletico Madrid & Uruguay)
Midfielder: Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich & Netherlands)
Midfielder: Ángel Di María (Real Madrid/Manchester United & Argentina)
Midfielder: Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich/Real Madrid CF & Germany)
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)
Forward: Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina)
Forward: Zlatan Ibrahimović (Paris Saint-Germain & Sweden)

Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure has become the first player to be named African Player of the Year for the fourth time in a row. The Manchester City ace was recognised for starring in his club's Premier League and League Cup triumph in 2013/14, while he also helped his country qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. Toure netted 20 goals in City's title-winning campaign, and also scored the equaliser in the Capital Cup Final 3-1 win over Sunderland last March. The 31-year-old has nine goals in 26 appearances in all competitions this season. Toure received his award in Lagos last Thursday night, beating off competition from Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama. Toure joined Everton striker Samuel Eto'o as the only men to win the accolade four times. The Cameroon legend's achievements were not in successive years.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has been charged by the Football Association for criticising officials after his side's 1-1 draw with Southampton on December 28. Mourinho was upset at referee Anthony Taylor's decision to deny Cesc Fabergas a penalty and book the Spaniard after he went down in the area under a challenge from Matt Targett. Mourinho said after the game at St Mary's: "There is a campaign against Chelsea. I don't know why there is this campaign and I do not care. Everybody knows it was a penalty. The referee made a mistake, people make mistakes and he made a big mistake. He is a good referee and a good guy, he is young, he has years and years of football ahead of him but it is a big mistake." The FA released a statement on Thursday evening, which said: "It is alleged his remarks constitute improper conduct in that they allege and/or imply bias on the part of a referee or referees and/or bring the game into disrepute." Mourinho has until 6pm on January 13 to respond to the charge. The FA also revealed the Portuguese was issued with a formal warning for his comments ahead of a match with Stoke on December 19. Its statement added: "Having sought his observations on this matter, decided not to bring a disciplinary charge and instead issued him with a formal warning."

Manchester United have signed former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes on an 18-month deal with the option of a further year. Valdes, who was allowed to train at United as he recovered from a serious knee injury, previously worked with Red Devils manager Louis van Gaal at the Nou Camp. The 32-year-old won six La Liga titles and three Champions League crowns with Barca before leaving the club when his contract expired at the end of last season. Valdes told his new side's official website: "It is a real honour to sign for Manchester United. I would like to thank Louis van Gaal and the club for allowing me to do my rehabilitation and to train with the team at the Aon Training Complex. From my short time here I can already see this is a very special club. I worked with Louis van Gaal during my time at FC Barcelona and to have the opportunity to work with him here at Manchester United is a dream come true." Valdes will be hard-pressed to displace David De Gea as the number one at Old Trafford, although his Spanish compatriot is believed to be in the sights of Real Madrid.

Inter Milan have confirmed a deal to sign Xherdan Shaqiri after agreeing a transfer fee with Bayern Munich. The deal is reportedly worth in excess of €14-million, with €2m up front for a loan deal until the end of the season, after which Inter will have to pay €12m to keep the Switzerland international on a four-year contact. "There is total agreement between Inter and Bayern Munich for the arrival of Xherdan Shaqiri," the Nerazzurri tweeted. "We're only missing the signatures." Once Shaqiri puts pen to paper, it will represent Inter's second major attacking signing of January after Lukas Podolski joined on loan from Arsenal until the end of the season. Shaqiri has scored 17 goals and made 19 assists for Bayern in 81 appearances for the club since joining from Basel in 2012.

Bafana Bafana's Afcon group rivals Senegal will be without striker Diafra Sakho at the competition due to a recurring back injury. The West Ham man, who has eight Premier League goals this season, aggravated the complaint after netting in his club's 1-1 league draw with West Bromwich Albion on January 1. Sion forward Pape Moussa Konate has been called up as a replacement by Teranga Lions coach Alain Giresse. "Sakho is not on the list of 23 players, his back problem is even preventing him from moving," Giresse announced.

Manchester City will complete the signing of Wilfried Bony from Swansea City after agreeing a reported fee of around £28-million. The Ivory Coast striker joined Swansea for £12m from Dutch Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem in July 2013. Bony is currently with the Elephants squad in Abu Dhabi as they prepare for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea but is expected to undergo a medical in the Middle East to complete the deal. The 26-year-old was the Premier League's leading scorer in 2014 with 20 goals and already has nine goals this term.

Senegal players have been promised bonuses of R645 000 ($55 000) each if they manage to win the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations trophy. In addition, the country's President Macky Sall has offered undisclosed win bonuses throughout the tournament, which kicks off in Equatorial Guinea on January 17. The Teranga Lions have never won Africa's premier international title, with a penalty-shootout loss to Cameroon in the 2002 final the closest they have come. The issue of player bonuses became a distraction for Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria at the 2014 World Cup, although Ghana have issued assurances that there will be no such row at Afcon 2015. Black Stars captain Asamoah Gyan stressed that players are now only interested in "dying for the nation" after settling on about R700 000 each for winning the trophy and R117 000 per game, reports Goal.

Cameroon midfielder Alexandre Song has announced his retirement from international football after being omitted from his country’s Afcon squad. The 27-year-old, who is currently on loan at Premier League club West Ham from La Liga giants Barcelona, decided to hang up his international boots after Cameroon finalised their squad for the upcoming African showpiece which excluded the experienced midfielder. "Since the World Cup in the summer and my subsequent exclusion from the Cameroon squad for the African Cup of Nations I have taken the decision to retire from International football," Song wrote on his Instagram account. "It is true that there were some discussions of late to include me in the squad for this tournament but I feel after a lot of careful thought and numerous discussions with my family this is the right decision. "My love for my country will never change but I want to take time to focus purely on domestic football and start to rebuild my career at West Ham United. I wish Cameroon all the best and the team will always be in my heart." Song, who made his debut for the Indomitable Lions ten years ago, played 49 matches for his country which included two World Cups and two Afcon tournaments, but never scored a goal. In what was to be his final match in a Cameroon shirt, Song was red carded for elbowing Croatia’s Mario Madzukic as his side were knocked out of the 2014 Fifa World Cup in the group stages.

Fifa vice-president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein has confirmed he will stand as a candidate in the elections for Fifa president later this year. Current president Sepp Blatter, who has been at the helm since 1998, is seeking his fifth term in office, but will now be challenged by his second-in-command. Prince Ali, who has been the president of Jordanian football since 1999 and is also the vice-president of the Asian Football Confederation, hopes to restore respect to the world football governing body’s image, which has been tarnished in scandal of late. "It is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport,” said the Jordanian Prince. "The headlines should be about football, not about Fifa. The message I heard, over and over, was that it is time for a change. The world game deserves a world-class governing body - an international federation that is a service organisation and a model of ethics, transparency and good governance." Prince Ali, 39, is half the age of current president Blatter, and joins former diplomat Jerome Champagne in challenging the Fifa boss for the presidency. All candidates for the position of Fifa president must submit their applications by 29 January, with the election date scheduled for 29 May.