International News - Issue 256

Hazard Voted Best Player In EPL

Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard said "I want to be the best and win a lot of trophies" after he was named the PFA Player of the Year on Sunday. Hazard, last season’s Young Player of the Year, has scored 18 goals in 47 games for the Blues this season, inspiring the current league leaders to the brink of a first Premier League title since 2010. The 24-year-old was rewarded for his sterling performances with the top individual award of the night at the PFA's awards ceremony at the Grosvenor Hotel in London. He finished ahead of Tottenham striker Harry Kane – who won the Young Player of the Year award – and Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea in the vote by his fellow professionals. Hazard said: "I'm very happy. One day I want to be the best and what I did this season is play very well, Chelsea played very well. "I don't know if I deserve to win but it is good for me. It is good, it is better to be voted by the players - they know everything about football. This is good. I'm very happy. I started the season not to be the PFA Player of the Year but it was in my head - I want to be the best and I hope one day I can win a lot of trophies. I just want to say thank you to the players who voted for me - it is always good to have an individual trophy but the most important thing is to win the league. I hope I can win a lot of trophies again - the most important is to win the league, without my teammates I would not be here. Jose [Mourinho] lets me play, we talk sometimes together and when I'm on the pitch I know what I have to do, this is most important." The Belgian international was also named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year for the third time in his three seasons in England.
PFA Premier League team: De Gea, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Bertrand, Matic, Coutinho, Hazard, Sanchez, Kane, Costa

Pep Guardiola will face Barcelona for the first time as a coach after his Bayern Munich team were drawn against his former club in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, with holders Real Madrid paired with Juventus in the other last-four tie. Guardiola led Barcelona to UEFA Champions League victories in 2009 and 2011, two of the 14 trophies his side won during his four years in charge at the Camp Nou. Real Madrid and Juventus, meanwhile, have a rich European history of their own; the semi-final will be their 17th and 18th meetings in UEFA competition, the most famous the 1998 UEFA Champions League final.

UEFA Champions League semi-final draw
Barcelona v Bayern Munich 6 & 12 May
Juventus v Real Madrid 5 & 13 May
UEFA Champions League final
6 June
• Barcelona and Bayern have met in eight previous European ties, all since 1996. Their most recent encounter came in the 2012/13 semi-finals, when Bayern triumphed 4-0 in Munich and 3-0 at the Camp Nou – the biggest aggregate victory in a UEFA Champions League semi-final.
• Bayern also got the better of Barcelona in the 1995/96 UEFA Cup semi-finals, following up a 2-2 first-leg draw in Munich with a 2-1 success at the Camp Nou.
• Indeed, Bayern have won on three of their four visits to Barcelona, posting a 2-1 victory in the 1998/99 group stage. However, their other trip produced a 4-0 first-leg defeat in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals; Barca went on to lift the trophy.
• Juventus are in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the first time in 12 years; in 2002/03 their last-four opponents were also Real Madrid. Then, the Serie A side went down 2-1 in Madrid but won 3-1 in Turin to set up an all-Italian final against AC Milan, which they lost on penalties at Old Trafford, Manchester.
• Juve and Madrid share a European history going back to 1962, when the Spaniards won their European Champion Clubs' Cup quarter-final 3-1 in a replay after each team had prevailed 1-0 away. Their overall record could scarcely be closer, with eight Madrid victories to Juve's seven.
• Their most recent tussle, in last term's group stage, ended in a 2-2 draw – the first stalemate between the sides – at the Juventus Stadium, with Madrid having edged it 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu through Cristiano Ronaldo's double.
• The clubs' most famous head-to-head was the 1998 UEFA Champions League final in Amsterdam, Predreg Mijatovic scoring the only goal in the 66th minute to give Madrid their seventh European title.

Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes feels Chelsea star Eden Hazard needs to be more aggressive in front of goal, yet backs the Belgian for this season’s Player of the Year award. Hazard has enjoyed a stellar season at Stamford Bridge, scoring 13 goals and providing eight assists in 32 League matches as the Blues look set to clinch this year’s League title. Yet Red Devils legend Paul Scholes believes Hazard should be more clinical in front of goal if he is to be talked about in the same breath as some of the world’s best. “One thing I do wonder with Hazard is whether he has that hunger to score goals that you see in Ronaldo, Messi and [Luis] Suarez,” Scholes wrote in The Independent. “Those are players who have a ferocious appetite to put the ball in the net. They’re unstoppable. Hazard seems to me to be a relatively gentle soul. One who is just as happy skipping past a couple of opponents and putting it on a plate for a team-mate. He does that very well, and I have no doubt he will deserve his accolade at the PFA awards,” he added. “Playing the way he does, under pressure to score goals and make them, is not easy and he has been a big part of Chelsea’s success. But in this modern age, if he wishes to challenge the achievements of Messi and Ronaldo then he will have to prove that he can match their relentless desire to score goals.”

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger admits he regrets letting go of star midfielder Cesc Fabregas. The Spain international left the Emirates for Barcelona in 2011, yet returned to the Premier League last year after joining London rivals Chelsea. And ahead of Arsenal’s clash against the Blues on Sunday, the Gunners boss says he wished he had kept the talented midfielder. "My regret is him [Fabregas] leaving here," the Frenchman told reporters. But I want every player to be respected."

Jordan Henderson has committed his long-term future to Liverpool. The English midfielder, who joined from Sunderland in 2011, put pen to paper on a contract extension, following in the footsteps of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho. "I'm over the moon that it's finally done,” Henderson tells "There has been talk about it for a while now. It's brilliant news for me to commit my future to this football club - I really feel that it's a good time for us to look forward to the future, with the squad we've got, the manager, the size of the club and the fans we've got. I really think, over the next few years, we can challenge and start winning trophies. That's the next phase; we've improved massively over the last few years, and I think the next phase for us is to start challenging for titles and trophies as well." Liverpool are now hoping that Raheem Sterling ends speculation over his future by penning the big-money deal presented to him.

Bayern Munich clinched their third straight Bundesliga title with four games to spare Sunday after closest rivals Wolfsburg lost to Borussia Monchengladbach. Bastian Schweinsteiger scored a late goal as Bayern beat Hertha Berlin 1-0 at home on Saturday to move 15 points clear of Wolfsburg, who had five games left to play. But after their 1-0 defeat to Gladbach on Sunday, Bayern were confirmed as champions for the third year in a row. Bayern have a record 25 German championships overall, including the first from 1932, with the rest coming after the Bundesliga was formed in 1963. "Retaining the title is a magnificent achievement. All credit to the coach and the team," Bayern president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said on the club's official website. They've been fantastic throughout in a season following a World Cup where we had a host of players in action." Pep Guardiola's side are chasing another treble this season and have a German Cup semifinal at home against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday as well as a UEFA Champions League semi against Barcelona to come. Bayern last won a treble in 2013 under former coach Jupp Heynckes. Guardiola won a league and cup double in his first season in charge last year.

Nike and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) have announced a new partnership in which Nike is designing and developing football kits for the men’s and women’s Nigeria national football teams from April 1, 2015, until at least 2018. Nike is designing performance and training apparel, and equipment, including team kits and footballs, for the Nigerian national football team players at every level of the game. There will be an exclusive-edition team kit for all NFF teams until the 2016-17 kit launches in mid-2016. In addition, Nike will design an assortment of products for Nigerians to show their support for the national team, to be available from mid-2016. The Nigeria under-20 men’s team will be the first team to don the new Nike kit at the under-20 football tournament to be hosted in New Zealand from May 31. The partnership includes the following elements: supplying performance and training kits to all nine of the Nigeria Football Federation teams at every level, including the men’s and women’s senior teams, men’s and women’s under-20 teams, men’s and women’s under-17 teams, men’s and women’s Olympic teams, and the men’s beach football team. Nigeria joins Nike’s portfolio of federation sponsorships including Australia, Brazil, England, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, the U.S. and others.

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson has been charged with three counts of having sexual activity with a minor. The England international was originally arrested on March 2, but has since returned to the field. However, the three charges came through this morning, and it’s unlikely that he will feature for the Black Cats again this season. A statement read: "Adam Johnson, a professional footballer aged 27 from Castle Eden, County Durham has this afternoon been charged with three offences of sexual activity with a child under 16 years old, plus one offence of grooming. Johnson was initially arrested on Monday, March 2 and was charged after he answered his police bail today at Peterlee police station. He will appear at the magistrates court in Peterlee on the morning of Wednesday, May 20."

The Nigerian Football Federation has appointed Stephen Keshi as the country’s national coach for the third time. The former Nigerian international signed a two-year contract, which will see him lead the Super Eagles until 2017. Keshi lead Nigeria to African Cup of nations success in 2013 in his first spell at the helm, and after his contract was not renewed, he returned on a match-by-match basis which ended in November last year after Nigeria failed to qualify for this year’s African showpiece. Yet Keshi is confident his side can return to their former glory. "It's a fresh start,” he told BBC Sport. “We need the support of our fans, media and every Nigerian to return the team to where we truly belong. As a coach and former player I was also hurt that we failed to qualify for the last Nations Cup. To succeed we all need to come together as one because Nigeria belongs to us, this is not Stephen Keshi's team but our national team." The 53-year-old admits his team may have disappointed in the past, but hopes to see an improvement soon. "I understand we still have some disappointed people out there but our dedicated players deserve our encouragement and support," he said. It doesn't matter where they play, these boys always give everything and we need to stand by them and the coaching crew. I remain confident that this time around we will see an improvement, change in attitude and positive results." Nigeria have been drawn in a tough qualifying group for Afcon 2017, where they face continental heavyweights Egypt as well as Tanzania and Chad.

Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge may not play again this season, says boss Brendan Rodgers. Sturridge, 25, has been sidelined by hip and thigh injuries and has not played since the FA Cup quarter-final win over Blackburn on 8 April. Rodgers said: "We'll see if he's going to be back this season or pre-season." Liverpool have five Premier League games remaining as they look to chase the final qualifying spot for next season's Champions League. They are seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United, but can narrow the gap to four points with victory at Hull on Tuesday. Sturridge has managed to play just 18 games for Liverpool this season, scoring five times, compared to a haul of 24 goals from 33 appearances last term. He was sidelined for more than five months from September with a thigh injury, and was forced to miss England's Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania in March with a hip problem. "It has been difficult for Daniel. He's a good lad who wants to play and be working and helping the team," said Rodgers. "It's just been one of those seasons for him where it has been very unfortunate. We are going to have to monitor that day by day and see where he's at. When he's been fit he's been brilliant for the team. We need to get him back fit and consistently playing."

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said the Arsenal fans who chanted 'boring Chelsea' during their 0-0 draw on Sunday were probably more bored of their own lack of trophies. Mourinho, in response after the match, had another dig at Gunners boss Arsene Wenger for what he perceived to be the wrong tactics and ambition. "You know, I think boring is 10 years without a title. That's very boring," said Mourinho. "You support the club and you're waiting, waiting, waiting for so many years without a Premier League title, so that's very boring. But maybe they were not singing to us. Maybe, when you want to win a game and you're at home and you take your number nine [Olivier Giroud] off, maybe the home fans want more. Maybe they want to play Giroud and [Danny] Welbeck together up front to try to win the game." Mourinho also had a reply to the suggestion that Chelsea will not win the hearts of neutrals due to his methodical approach to winning games. "I have lots of love," Mourinho said. "No problem. If you [the media] tell the truth, people will fall in love with us. But you have to tell the truth. If you say the truth, you will walk in the street and people will blow kisses at us." Asked how he would like Chelsea to be remembered as champions, Mourinho said: "First of all, we need to be champions. We need to win the five points to be champions. "If we do that – and I think we are going to do that – we will be champions being top of the league since day one. Being top of the league since day one, only top teams can do that."

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said he could see something was wrong even before his side lost 3-0 at Everton on Sunday. James McCarthy, John Stones and Kevin Mirallas scored the goals that condemned Van Gaal to his heaviest defeat as United boss. The result puts a dent in the Red Devils' aspirations of qualifying automatically for the UEFA Champions League, although with third-placed Arsenal drawing 0-0 with Chelsea, all hope is not lost. "You shall always be compared with your opponent in aggression and motivation and Everton really wanted to win this game, and I don't think we equalled it," said Van Gaal. The fighting spirit of Everton was higher, and when they scored the first goal it became difficult for us. I had already the feeling and my colleagues [assistants] Ryan Giggs and Albert Stuivenberg had the feeling because the warm-up was not so good as usual. In the last minutes before the game you hope you can recover and stimulate your players but then it is too late. "You have to prepare the match already two or three days before and Everton has done that and they have won because of that. In phases we played well, and created chances, but I did not see the belief that I have seen when we were behind in matches. We need that aggression and a little bit of luck. It is of concern that we have not scored for two games in a row."

Manchester United will have to wait a while longer to see whether they can sign Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan. The 24-year-old German midfielder has been heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford and, with his contract expiring in 2016, Dortmund will be reluctant to lose him for nothing come January. The club’s sporting director, Michael Zorc, told Kicker magazine that they will have to make a decision soon. "Gundogan's situation isn't straight forward because his contract expires in 2016. There will be a decision soon,” he says. However, Zorc is more confident of holding on to German defender Mats Hummels, who has also been linked with a move away from the club. "As far as I know, Hummels' contract still runs until 2017. We did not receive any offer that we should think about," he adds.

Jose Mourinho feels the entire PFA Premier League Team of the Year should have consisted of Chelsea players. The team was announced this past weekend, with six players from the London club making the cut – Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa. David De Gea, Ryan Bertrand, Alexis Sanchez, Philippe Coutinho and Harry Kane took the other five spots, but Mourinho believes the champions-elect deserved more. “Yes, all of them,” he responded when asked if more of his players deserved to be there. “But I know that this is a Chelsea manager speaking and obviously I respect every one of the players that were in that team. And especially everyone that chooses. The players from the other teams have the right to choose. Great players were in that team and great players outside that team. This season [Cesc] Fabregas is doing the number of assists, the quality of his game and not to be there is a bit strange. I think that team wouldn't win the Premier League. It's a team without any balance. That team is missing a midfield player. I think that midfield player should be Fabregas."