International News - Issue 243

Eto’o Joins Sampdoria In Serie A Return
Samuel Eto’o watched his new Sampdoria team-mates draw 1-1 with Palermo at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris after completing a medical as he prepares to join the Serie A club from Everton. Sampdoria hope the 33-year-old Cameroon striker will provide the extra firepower to secure a Champions League qualifying place. They lie fourth at present (Monday). The 33-year-old passed a medical on Sunday, posting a picture on Twitter  with the message: "Successful medical. Ready for a new challenge!!!" Eto'o joined the Toffees on a free transfer in August 2014, and has scored four goals in all competitions so far this season.

Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini has slammed Serie A rivals Sampdoria for signing 'has-been' Samuel Eto'o. “Massimo Ferrero is extrovert and understands that sometimes football can be about putting on a show, but we’ll have to see how much fun he is when Samp lose a few games. I would never have signed Eto’o, as he is a has-been at the end of his career. His arrival is fitting with Ferrero’s day job, as it’s all about cinema and publicitySampdoria are joint third in Serie A alongside Napoli with 33 points from 19 games.

Barcelona star Neymar says Cristiano Ronaldo must be punished for his violent conduct against Cordoba on Saturday. Ronaldo was sent off for kicking Edimar Fraga and slapping Jose Crespo in Real Madrid's 2-1 La Liga win. The Ballon d'Or holder, who could escape with just a two-match ban, later apologised for his actions. "Those of us playing as forwards are exposed to provocations and intimidation and sometimes you lose your nerve. Ronaldo must be punished because of the aggression. It is difficult because sometimes there is provocation. It happened to Zinedine Zidane, it happened to me. Nobody has the coolness to remain calm 100 per cent of the time. We must think with our heads. I think he should be punished."

Andre Schurrle may have played his last game for Chelsea. The German sat out Tuesday’s second
leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final against Liverpool as Wolfsburg continue to negotiate a return for him to the Bundesliga. The World Cup winner missed Saturday’s shock FA Cup fourth-round defeat by Bradford City, having apparently suffered a minor back injury, and that is likely to be used again to explain his absence in the semi-final. Yet the twinge is not believed to jeopardise Schürrle’s departure, a sale which, together with that of Mohamed Salah, is likely to provoke a frenzy of late transfer activity at the Premier League leaders whose interest in Fiorentina’s Juan Cuadrado and Douglas Costa at Shakhtar Donetsk is well established. Chelsea will seek at least £23.5m for a player who has shown flashes of his quality over his spell at the club and was purchased for just £18m. Whether the German side, who secured Kevin de Bruyne from Chelsea in the summer, would be willing or able to match that valuation now is uncertain. Their preference is to take the forward on loan until the end of the season with a guarantee of making the move permanent in the summer. Yet Chelsea’s intention is to reinvest the money generated by Schurrle’s sale, as well as that of Salah, to secure at least one replacement mid-season, meaning negotiations with the Bundesliga club will continue.

FA Cup holders Arsenal have been drawn against giant-killers Middlesbrough in the fifth round of this year’s FA Cup. Arsene Wenger’s side, who were 3-2 winners against Brighton and Hove on Sunday evening, will have a tough tie against their Championship opponents, who managed a shock 2-0 defeat of Manchester City on Saturday. Liverpool, who still have a fourth-round replay against Bolton to secure their progression in the tournament, will have fellow Premier League rivals Crystal Palace waiting in the next round after Alan Pardew’s men ousted Southampton 3-2. Manchester United, who also have a replay after their 0-0 draw with Cambridge United on Friday night, will face either Preston North End or Sheffield United should they progress. Another giant killer Bradford City, who produced one of the shocks of the FA Cup history with a 4-2 drubbing of Chelsea in the previous round, will take on the winner of the Sunderland-Fulham match-up in their next encounter. All fifth-round fixtures will take place over the weekend of 14 and 15 February 2015.

All Fifth Round FA Cup fixtures:
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool/Bolton Wanderers
Arsenal vs Middlesbrough
Aston Villa vs Leicester City
West Brom vs West Ham
Bradford City vs Sunderland/Fulham
Blackburn Rovers vs Rochdale/Stoke City
Derby County vs Reading
Preston North End/Sheffield United vs Cambridge United/Manchester United

Bayern Munich winger Frank Ribery has slammed the Fifa Ballon d’Or vote, believing the award to be destined for Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. Ribery, who came third in the vote in 2013, revealed his dismay after Ronaldo won his third title, leaving him just one shy of Messi’s four, with the duo having shared the last seven trophies between them. "So long as Ronaldo and Messi are around, the third player who gets nominated should realise that he does not stand a chance," Ribery said. "It's the same story all over again each and every year. I don't know what one should achieve to win this award. Even winning the World Cup is apparently no longer enough.” The 31-year-old feels that club teammate Manuel Neuer was deserving of this year’s prize, and hinted at urging fellow players to possibly boycott the award in future. "[Manuel] Neuer has been the best goalkeeper in the world for two or three years now,” said the Frenchman. “He won trophies with Bayern, won the World Cup and was the best goalkeeper in Brazil. Apparently, that's not enough, though. I simply don't understand it. When another Bayern player gets nominated, we should have a discussion whether it's even worth going. What's the point? To get your picture taken? It's just politics for me.”

Lucas Silva's move to Real Madrid has been agreed. The 21-year-old Brazilian midfielder has
starred in his club's consecutive Brasileirao triumphs these past two seasons. Silva is the second player to arrive at the Santiago Bernabeu in the January transfer window after Real secured the signature of the much sought after Norwegian teenager, Martin Odegaard. Silva had been linked with Real since August, with the Madrid side looking for a replacement for Xabi Alonso, after the Spanish midfielder joined Bayern Munich last summer. Madrid did not disclose the transfer fee, but reports say the Champions League holders paid 15million euros (£11.5m) for the player. He is considered to be one of Brazil's most promising young players and has represented his country at junior level. Silva had also been linked with a number of Premier League sides, including Manchester United.

Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure has backed Equatorial Guinea authorities for screening fans outside stadiums, despite the delays it is causing on matchdays. Fans attending Africa Cup of Nations matches are required to wash their hands and have their temperatures checked before gaining access to stadiums, resulting in long delays. Fans and police have clashed on a number of occasions already at the tournament for various reasons, but Toure believes these steps are necessary to ensure everybody's safety. "I think the fans need to know that they have to be checked, definitely," Toure said.  "Ebola exists and sometimes people - when they don't have people around them who have it - don't believe in it. But I think people need to know that Ebola is there and we all need to make sure that this disease doesn't increase. It's very important that people just think you can get it in the stadium, because one guy [could have] it and that's why I think it's very important to be checked. It's the most important [thing], more important than the game because nothing is more important than life."

Argentine midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme has announced his retirement from football. The 36-year-old, who spent a large part of his career in Spain turning out for Barcelona and then Villarreal, was linked to a move to the MLS from current club Argentinos Juniors, yet has now decided to hang up his football boots for good. 

Chelsea target Douglas Costa has revealed he wants to play under Jose Mourinho and believes the Blues boss would aid his progress as a player. The current Premier League leaders have increased their offer for the Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder to £18.7million having had an opening bid of £16million rejected last Thursday evening, according to the player himself. However, Costa claims the Ukranian champions have said they will help him after he made clear his desire to move to Stamford Bridge. The 24-year-old spoke of his desire to play under Mourinho at Chelsea and said: 'To play at Chelsea is a dream for any player. It is standing next to some of the best players in the world and competing with the world's best as well. But really, what catches my eye is the coach. He is a very intelligent coach and has been victorious wherever he went. One of the things that would make me happier to play at Chelsea would be this. Having spent five years in Donetsk under Shakhtar boss Mircea Lucescu, Costa believes Mourinho could take his game to the next level.

Royston Drenthe has signed for Turkish top flight club Kayseri Erciyesspor on a permanent deal from Reading. The former Real Madrid winger has struggled to settle at any club since leaving the Bernabeu in 2012, playing for four different sides both on loan and permanently. From Madrid, via a loan spell at Everton, he joined Alania Vladikavkaz in Russia, but after just six appearances he moved again - to Reading.  

Aston Villa have tied Easah Suliman down to a two-year professional deal in order to ward off interest from Bayern Munich and Liverpool. The 16-year-old signed scholarship forms with Villa in the summer but had still been courted by a selection of Europe's biggest clubs. However Suliman, who has captained England's Under 17 side, has agreed to commit his future to the Premier League outfit.

Norwegian teenager Martin Odegaard has completed his move to Real Madrid. The 16-year-old midfielder signed a contract with the Champions League winners after passing a medical exam. "It's a dream come true," he said. "It is a bit unreal that I'm here at the biggest club in the world. It's huge for me, an honour." Odegaard will train with both the first team and the reserves but play for the second string, who are coached by France great Zinedine Zidane. Odegaard told the media that the move to Madrid represented the best opportunity to "develop as a footballer" and said there was "no pressure" on him. He added: "My goal is to become a better footballer. Playing for the first or second team is not so important. It's a dream come true. It is a bit unreal that I'm here at the biggest club in the world. It's huge for me, an honour." Odegaard made his debut for Norway as a 15-year-old in August and had been linked with many of Europe's top clubs. Odegaard came to prominence last year when he became the youngest player to appear and score in the Norwegian Premier League. The teenager is left-footed and has drawn comparisons to Barcelona's Lionel Messi for his style of play.

Shaun Maloney has left Championship strugglers Wigan to join Major League Soccer side Chicago Fire. The winger, who is out of contract in the summer, moves for an undisclosed fee after three-and-a-half years with the Latics. Maloney, who has been capped 37 times by Scotland, had been on course for a Premier League switch to Leicester before the deal fell through over personal terms.

Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado has made it clear he wants to join Chelsea. The Serie A club are reluctant to let the Colombian winger leave for anything less than his £26.8m buyout clause, and discussions are still ongoing over a potential move to Stamford Bridge before the deadline. No formal offer has yet been accepted for Cuadrado, who played for Fiorentina against Roma on Sunday, and his current manager Vincenzo Montella is at pains to let him leave following 21 goals in 82 appearances for the club. 

Arsene Wenger has confirmed the Gunners are close to completing the deal for Gabriel Paulista, with a fee in the region of £14m having been agreed between the two sides. The deal is subject to a work permit being granted, and this could prove to be a stumbling block with the player yet to make a single international appearance.