International News - Issue 259

Sterling Wants Out Of Liverpool
Raheem Sterling is set to resume contract talks with Liverpool later this week but intends to tell them he does not plan to sign a new deal. It is understood the 20-year-old England international winger will make a decision about his future by the end of this week, when he is due to meet with manager Brendan Rodgers and chief executive Ian Ayre. After the meeting, it will become clear whether he intends to stay at Anfield, or leave the club. Sky sources say it is because he feels the club have tried to bully him into signing a new contract - and that he does not think they have protected him from negative headlines. Sterling is also angry that details of earlier contract offers have been leaked. Liverpool's position remains unchanged and that the club says Sterling is not for sale.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon can scarcely believe Sir Alex Ferguson made such a big mistake in allowing Paul Pogba to leave Manchester United. Pogba, 22, has developed into one of the sport's brightest talents in his three years in Turin after departing United on a free transfer. The French midfielder is expected to play a key role for the Serie A holders tonight in their Champions League semi-final decider with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Juve won the first leg 2-1. "I have been in football many years but the decision of Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United to not play Pogba and let him leave is one of the strangest I have ever seen," Buffon told the Daily Express. "After just a few training sessions we saw how good he was. it cannot have been the same player they saw in Manchester - we thought they maybe needed glasses. I have never seen a player who is so good at his age, he is so strong, so technically gifted, has exceptional all-round play. Pogba can do things only Pogba can, similar to Messi and Ronaldo. United let one of the top players in the world leave but that has been only good news for us."

Fifa will investigate the arrests in Qatar of a group of journalists reporting on migrants' working conditions in the host nation of the 2022 World Cup. A BBC crew, which included four journalists, were incarcerated for two days after being arrested by security forces. The quartet, who were accused of trespassing, has initially been invited by the Qatari prime minister’s office to tour new accommodation built for construction workers. “Any instance relating to an apparent restriction of press freedom is of concern to Fifa and will be looked into with the seriousness it deserves,” Fifa said in a statement. Mark Lobel, one of the apprehended journalists, told BBC's 'Today’ programme: “They had actually photographed my every move since I had arrived. The worrying sign of this is that it might be a crackdown on the media to deal with the problem at the same time that other parts of the government are trying to change their image.” In a report on Lobel's ordeal he described instances in which migrant workers were lured with false promises of inflated salary packages among other grievances. The BBC later released a statement, which said: "We are pleased that the BBC team has been released but we deplore the fact that they were detained in the first place. Their presence in Qatar was no secret and they were engaged in a perfectly proper piece of journalism. The Qatari authorities have made a series of conflicting allegations to justify the detention, all of which the team rejects. We are pressing the Qatari authorities for a full explanation and for the return of the confiscated equipment." Qatar has battled a string of controversies since being appointed World Cup hosts in December 2010, including the deaths of several migrant workers during the construction of stadiums as well as claims of corruption in the bidding process.

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola would jump at the opportunity to coach Brazil, according to former Santos and Roma goalkeeper Julio Sergio. Spaniard Guardiola was linked with the Samba Boys hotseat in June 2012, but CBF president Joe Maria opted for Luiz Felipe Scolari, who has since been replaced by Dunga. "Guardiola told me that he dreams of coaching the Brazilian national team, and he would accept an invitation without thinking,” Sergio, who worked with Guardiola at Bayern earlier this year, told ESPN. “He also said he wanted to lead Brazil in the 2014 World Cup and assured me that if he was the coach, and had Neymar, he would have been champion.” The 44-year-old Guardiola is contracted to the Bundesliga champions for another 12 months. Brazil, who have never appointed a foreign coach, have impressed since their 2014 World Cup semi-final 7-1 loss to eventual champions Germany. The South Americans have won eight straight games under Dunga ahead of next month's Copa Ameria in Chile.

Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal says the onus remains on goalkeeper David De Gea to decide his own future. The Spanish shot-stopper has been increasingly linked with a move to Real Madrid, and after being substituted off with an injury in United’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal, was given a standing ovation as he waved to the crowd, with speculation mounting that the gesture was a sign of his last appearance for the Red Devils.  Van Gaal said that based on what he knows about the player, a move back to Spain could be a distinct reality. "I analyse his position and then I say he is Spanish, he is a Spanish international, still behind [Iker] Casillas [for the national team], now a Spanish club is coming [in for him], his girlfriend is Spanish, his father and mother come every week or every two weeks here [from Spain] so it is difficult,” the Dutch coach said. Van Gaal said that the young gloveman will be missed should he leave, yet that decision must be made by the player himself. "I don't think I can persuade him,” he said. “He knows everything what he has at the moment in Manchester United so I don't have to say something in benefit of Manchester United because he can feel it every day. You have seen the fans: unbelievable. When he is going, he is losing that. Here he has a lot of credits. He has to decide." Van Gaal said he is unsure whether or not De Gea will be fit for United’s season-ending clash against Hull City next weekend, with former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes donning the gloves for the rest of the match against Arsenal in his compatriot’s absence. His injury is a hamstring injury so it shall be difficult to play but you never know," he said.

Wolfsburg CEO Klaus Allofs says in-demand playmaker Kevin De Bruyne is "unsellable". De Bruyne has netted 15 goals and provided 25 assists in all competitions this season, prompting interest from Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain. However, Allofs is confident the 23-year-old is staying put. "At the moment, I'd call him unsellable," he told German TV show 'Doppelpass' when asked about the Belgium international. "I am 100 percent convinced he will play for us next year. However, in football things can develop so rapidly, that you can't say this now."

Manchester United-bound winger Memphis Depay ended his career at PSV Eindoven as the top scorer in the Eredivisie. The Netherlands international, who will move to Old Trafford in the summer, netted 22 goals for the Dutch champions, two more than closest challenger and teammate Luuk De Jong. Depay, 21, scored a modest 17 goals in his previous three seasons. Groningen midfielder Michael de Leeuw and ADO Den Haag striker Michael Kramer finished on 17 goals apiece, with the former plundering a hat-trick in his side's 5-4 win at NAC on the weekend.

Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick in a 4-1 win at Espanyol on Sunday saw him bypass Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano on the club's scoring charts. Ronaldo's treble bolstered his Los Blancos haul to 310 goals, two more than Di Stefano, who passed away last year. Di Stefano achieved his tally in 396 games between 1953 and 1964, while Ronaldo has made 299 appearances for the Spanish giants since his arrival in 2009 from Manchester United. Ronaldo, who has struck 58 times this season, is 13 goals shy of Madrid icon Raul, who made 741 outings for the capital outfit from 1994 to 2010. Real's victory on the weekend was not enough to stop Barcelona from claiming La Liga honours with a 1-0 win at former champions Atletico Madrid. Lionel Messi netted his 54th goal of the campaign for the Catalans.

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini has calmed talk of the tussle which awaits against Barcelona striker Luis Suarez. The duo will meet in the Champions League final next month for the first time since the Uruguayan famously bit the Italy international at last year’s World Cup in Brazil, leading to a four-month ban for the former Liverpool forward. Yet the Juventus centre-back, who said he forgave Suarez after the incident, insists that incident is in the past, with the players’ now solely focused on lifting the ‘Big Ears’. "I'll face Suarez as a great striker and nothing more, just as I did with all the others: [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Gareth] Bale, [Karim] Benzema, Chicharito," Chiellini said. "Episodes like that in the summer help you mature, for both sides. Even on his part I think there is nothing other than the desire to win the Champions League." Suarez will also come up against former Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra, who he was found guilty of racially abusing in 2011, and former Uruguay and Juventus defender Paulo Montero believes the Barca striker will be highly motivated come next month’s final.  "For Suarez there will be a motivation to face Evra and Chiellini again," he said. "It's his chance, I would suggest, to be cheeky – to lift the cup right in their faces. With the way that Suarez is playing, Evra and Chiellini should be very worried." The Champions League Final will take place at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany on Saturday, 6 June.

Four players from Argentinean club River Plate were rushed to hospital after being attacked by opposition fans during a Cup fixture against Boca Juniors. The last 16 Copa Libertadores clash between the two rivals was called off just after half-time after the players were attacked as they made their way out the tunnel. Fans managed to get onto the pitch after getting through high wire fencing and spray what seemed like a pepper-spray substance on the players, with four of River Plate’s team members needing hospitalisation following the attack. "I can't see, I can't see. I am burning. This is not a war," said River Plate defender Ramiro Funes Mori during the incident. Television images showed River players Leonardo Ponzio and Leonel Vangioni rubbing their eyes after being sprayed, while other players poured water furiously over their faces in an attempt to appease the pain. Boca president Daniel Angelici described the substance to reporters after the game, describing the guilty fans as “sick”. "These people are sick," he said. "An aerosol is small, it is very powerful. It can fit in your pocket and when there are almost 50,000 people it can get by security." South American football's governing body Conmebol will meet later on Friday to decide the outcome of the match. It is believed that it could be replayed, possibly at a neutral venue, or the victory could be given to River Plate, who hold a 1-0 lead from the first leg played earlier this month.

Former Chelsea forward Andre Schurrle received a surprise text message from former coach Jose Mourinho revealing that he has a Premier League winners’ medal waiting for him. The German international left the Blues for Bundesliga side Wolfsburg in January, yet did not expect to receive any recognition for his 14 appearances for the English club as they went on to secure this season’s League title. Yet the 24-year-old recently revealed a surprise message he received from Jose Mourinho, telling him of a winners’ medal awaiting him in London. "I didn't know that I'd get a medal when I didn't play most of the second half of the season,” Schurrle said. "Jose Mourinho sent me a text to say that I'd get a medal and he asked me to come to the last game. That was very nice for me.  I'm really happy for the boys. They played a very good second half of the season so of course, for me, it's good to get a medal but the boys did the work."

Chelsea have given second-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech permission to seek a transfer this summer. Cech, 32, is regarded as one of the best keepers in the world, but he has played second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois at Stamford Bridge this season. The Czech Republic international has made five Premier League starts and 14 outings in all competitions in 2014/15. "Petr has a valid contract with his current club, however, I can confirm that we have been permitted by Chelsea to negotiate with interested parties," Cech's agent Viktor Kolar told talkSPORT. "Petr has confirmed his interest to play regularly at a top club."

Marseille president Vincent Labrune has accepted the club will lose the services of Andre Ayew this summer to a wealthier outfit. Ayew's contract will expire at the end of the season, with Premier League pair Arsenal and Liverpool reportedly tracking the Ghanaian winger. Labrune told The Independent: "We can't keep Ayew. He is a very important player for OM but we can't offer him the kind of money English clubs can offer. The French financial system is complicated and we can't offer him an equivalent salary to what he can earn in England. And equally, we can't ask Ayew, who we love and is an icon of our team, to accept a lower salary. That makes no sense so unfortunately he is going to quit the club and we hope he has the great career that he deserves in England or somewhere else.”

Argentine legend Diego Maradona says he scored more beautiful goals than prolific compatriot Lionel Messi. Maradona attained greatness during his storied career, starring for his country as well as Barcelona, Napoli and Boca Juniors before retiring in 1997. Messi, a four-time Ballon d'Or winner, is often compared to the 54-year-old. And while the latter is impressed with Messi's strike-rate, he feels he edges the Barca talisman in at least one aspect. “I think the goals come with the style. I think Messi is finding his own style, but he is killing it with the goals. This makes you accelerate the pace. Most likely, he will find his style very soon,” Maradona said. “I think that I had my own style from the very beginning, so that is the point at which I could be better than Messi. But Messi has scored 300 goals, whereas I think I scored a little over 200 in my whole career. But the thing is, my goals were more beautiful!”

Gareth Bale admits things are not going his way after another night of booing from the Real Madrid fans. The world’s most expensive player has come under fire for some sub-standard performances this season, and even more so last week as he wasted a number of chances in Real’s UEFA Champions League exit to Juventus.  There have been some reports that Real could cut their losses and sell the player in the summer, though that has so far been denied by the club’s bosses. Still, Bale admits that it’s been a trying campaign. "I haven't scored as many important chances as I would like this season," Bale told Sky Sports. "I feel my general play has been good, but my finishing has been a bit rusty this year and it's something to work on for next year. I was unlucky not to score one versus Juventus. As long as I keep trying usually one goes in, but unfortunately one didn't now.” Bale added: "There have been some ups and downs this season, but I feel I've played well in general."What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'll learn from this season a lot, take it into next season and have a good season."

Patrice Evra has warned Luis Suarez that he can expect a tough time of it when they cross paths in the UEFA Champions League Final. Evra will come up against Suarez, who was banned for eight matches while playing for Liverpool for racially abusing the then-Manchester United left-back. Suarez will also face Giorgio Chiellini, the Italian defender he bit during the 2014 World Cup. Speaking after the result in Madrid last night, Evra said: "The most important thing is I play the final, you know. I am proud to be what I am, I am proud about my colour and I will shake his hand, it is no problem, but I will make sure he will feel me on the pitch." Evra also rubbished suggestions that Barcelona already have one hand on the trophy given the embarrassment of riches at their disposal. "They are human beings. People forget that on Juventus' team a lot of players have already won the Champions League. They play as well in finals, like myself, my fifth final. You never know. I believe in everything because, if I don't believe we can win against Barcelona, I will ask the manager not to play me."

AC Milan have released Brazilian attacker Robinho a year before his contract was due to expire. The 31-year-old is expected to now sign with Santos, who he helped win the Pauilstao state championship after returning to the club on loan in August. Robinho netted 12 goals in all competitions for his boyhood side, prompting a recall to the Samba Boys squad for the upcoming Copa America. "Milan and Robinho have resolved consensually the contract between the Brazilian player to the Rossoneri club until 30 June 2016," Milan confirmed last Wednesday. "The contract is terminated on June 30, 2015, and Robinho will be free from contractual obligations from 1 July 2015. AC Milan thanks Robinho. He has made a significant contribution, in terms of goals and performance.”

Ivory Coast and Manchester City star Yaya Toure has called on Fifa to clamp down hard on racists as they launch a new anti-discrimination campaign. Toure was speaking at the launch of FIFA's Anti-Discrimination Monitoring System at Wembley Stadium in London. Part of the new movement to try to eradicate racism in football will see match observers report back on fan behaviour at all 900-plus qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Fifa say sanctions will be brought upon perpetrators within as little as 24 hours and could range from playing games behind closed doors to banning associations from World Cup qualification. Toure, who has previously said black players could boycott games in racist territories, believes the harshest punishment has to be meted out or the initiative will never work. "Racism is a big problem now – it is a problem in our society in general – and we need to show them they need to change, otherwise there will be a radical sanction. UEFA have been doing things for 20 years now, but it cannot solve the problem itself. I think Fifa needs to work with the campaigners, the players and the media to resolve this. We are all people who care about this. As an African, you can imagine how difficult it is to deal with this. In the past I’ve played in Russia, and I have spoken of this with friends who play in Russia and Ukraine. We all say the same.  Something needs to change. And the ultimate sanctions should be given if it goes on."

Argentina have announced their squad that will do battle in the upcoming Copa America next month. The 2014 World Cup runners up have recalled Paris Saint Germain midfielder Javier Pastore and in-form Juventus striker Carlos Tevez, who both missed out on last year’s Mundial in Brazil. Tevez will have to compete for a starting berth alongside a star-studded attack consisting of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi.  The tournament, which will be hosted by Chile from 11 June to 4 July, features 12 South American nations who are all bidding to be crowned the continent’s best. Argentina have been drawn in Group B alongside Jamaica, Uruguay and Paraguay, who they face in their first encounter on 13 June.

Full Argentina squad for 2015 Copa America:
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Sampdoria/ITA), Nahuel Guzman (Tigres/MEX), Mariano Andujar (Napoli/ITA), Agustín Marchesín (Santos Laguna/MEX)
Defenders: Martin Demichelis (Manchester City/ENG), Nicolas Otamendi (Valencia/ESP), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United/ENG), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City/ENG), Ezequiel Garay (Zenit St-Petersburg/RUS), Facundo Roncaglia (Fiorentina/ITA), Federico Fernandez (Swansea City/ENG), Milton Casco (Newell's Old Boys), Lucas Orban (Valencia/ESP)
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona/ESP), Lucas Biglia (Lazio/ITA), Ever Banega (Sevilla/ESP), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Roberto Pereyra (Juventus/ITA), Angel Di Maria (Manchester United/ENG), Federico Mancuello (Independiente), Maximiliano Rodriguez (Newell's), Enzo Perez (Valencia/ESP), Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Erik Lamela (Tottenham/ENG), Nicolas Gaitan (Benfica/POR)
Strikers: Lionel Messi (Barcelonea/ESP), Carlos Tevez (Juventus/ITA), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli/ITA), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City/ENG), Ezequiel Lavezzi (PSG/FRA)

Chelsea talisman Eden Hazard has been announced as the winner of the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award for the 2014/15 season. The 24-year-old has enjoyed a stellar season at Stamford Bridge, scoring 19 goals and providing 12 assists in 50 appearances in all competitions, helping his side to League and League Cup glory. And the Belgium international now has another trophy to add to his cabinet. “We're pleased to announce that ChelseaFC's Eden Hazard is this year's FWA Footballer of the Year! Congratulations!” read a tweet from the Football Writers’ Association’s official account. This to add to another individual award this season, after Hazard was awarded the PFA Player of the Year accolade last month.