International News - Issue 260

Real Madrid Sack Ancelotti
Real Madrid have confirmed the sacking of head coach Carlo Ancelotti – just a year after he won the UEFA Champions League. Club president Fiorentino Perez confirmed the news at a press conference, adding that a successor would be named next week. “I would like to inform you that the board has taken the decision to relieve Carlo Ancelotti of his post as Real Madrid coach,” Perez said. “It was a very difficult decision to make; the demands at this club are the utmost because Madrid always wants to win silverware. The affection that the players and the fans have for Carlo, is the same as the affection I myself have for him. I hope that next week, we can announce the identity of our new coach.” Ancelotti also won Copa del Rey in 2013/14, and embarked on a record 22-game winning run this season. However, the wheels came off as they conceded top spot in La Liga to Barcelona, were knocked out the Copa del Rey and crashed out the Champions League in the semi-finals, beaten over two legs by Juventus. Rafael Benitez, currently in charge of Napoli, is the favourite to take over.

Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba has hinted at a possible move to the American MLS. The 37-year-old lifted the Premier League title in his last game for Chelsea on the weekend following his second stint at the club, having announced prior to kick-off that he would be leaving Stamford Bridge. Chelsea’s highest foreign goal-scorer says he could not bear playing for another English club, but would consider following fellow Premier League superstars Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard to the MLS. "There are some really fantastic teams in the Premier League but my love for this club. I can't share it with another English team,” Drogba said. "Since I put the news I am leaving Chelsea on social media, I was in the dressing-room and I was receiving some calls from teams which is really unusual. It showed that maybe I can still bring something to a team. Of course I'm interested in the USA. Now I'm going to have a few days and weeks to think about what is good for me next but all I want is to play." Drogba made 40 appearances for the Blues this season, mostly from the substitute’s bench, scoring seven goals, as he ends his Chelsea career with 164 goals in 381 games. The Ivorian won four Premier League titles, three League Cups, four FA Cups and the Champions League in a combined nine years in London.

Dani Alves has hit out at the powers-that-be at Barcelona for claiming he is chasing money. The 32-year-old Brazilian will see his contract at the Nou Camp expire next month, and he admits he has “both feet and my head outside the club”. "I have endured a lot this year, listening to a lot of bullshit," he told reporters. "So I have to speak out because I have been disrespected and have a limit. When I say that I have been disrespected, I am talking about board members who have been talking about me. They say I am chasing money, but I'm not thinking about money ... I'm thinking about what I do being valued. If they don't value what I do, then this club is not for me. The club doesn't value me the way I feel I deserve." Alves looked set to join Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, although Barcelona have since indicated a willingness to extend his stay. However, a call will only be made after the UEFA Champions League final against Juventus on June 6. “The club have wanted to keep me since three or four months ago because my performances have improved, but I have spent seven seasons of my life here and have to find the right balance,” he continues. Until June 7, I consider myself a Barcelona player and only think about the taste of being a European champion again. Hopefully we can make history with this club. After that, I will announce my decision. The coach is happy with my work, but the life of a professional is based on trust and if you do not have a complete trust with the club, things don't go as expected.”

Norwich have bounced straight back into the English Premier League after beating Middlesbrough 2-0 in the Championship play-off Final at Wembley this afternoon. Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond scored inside the first 15 minutes for the Canaries, who were only relegated to the Championship last season. They join Watford and Bournemouth as the promoted teams, with Queens Park Rangers, Burnley and Hull City having dropped down. Promotion to the top-flight is worth an estimated £120million.

Portuguese legend Luis Figo has joined Michael van Praag in withdrawing from the race for the Fifa presidency, to support Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein's bid to oust Sepp Blatter. Earlier Dutch FA Chief Van Praag pulled out of the running ahead of the May 29 election. Hussein now stands alone in opposing favourite Blatter, who has headed football's world governing body since 1998.

Spanish midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez officially announced last week that he will be leaving childhood club FC Barcelona. "I'd like to announce that I'm leaving Barca after this season. The decision is definitive yet difficult," he said at a press conference last Thursday. The 35-year-old has spent the last 24 years in Catalonia, joining Barca’s youth set-up as an 11-year-old in 1991 before making his debut in 1998. He has since won 23 trophies at the Camp Nou, including eight La Liga titles, tow Spanish Cups and three Champions League crowns, with the final of both the domestic and European Cup to still look forward to before his departure. In total, Xavi has made a record 739 appearances for the club, which includes 84 goals and 163 assists in all competitions, while earning 133 caps for Spain. Xavi has signed a three-year contract with Qatar side Al Sadd, where he will also work with the country’s Aspire Academy while acting as an ambassador for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Xavi’s last game for the Blaugrana will be their Champions League Final encounter against Juventus in Berlin on 6 June.

Former Manchester United forward Eric Cantona is suing American club New York Cosmos for almost one million dollars for allegedly failing to pay his wages. The Frenchman was hired as the club’s director of soccer in 2011, yet was fired last year after getting into a scuffle with a photographer in London. However, the 48-year-old is now claiming the club failed to pay him out properly after his departure, to an amount of $961 290 (R11 million). Cosmos have yet to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in the Manhattan federal court last Tuesday. After folding in 1985, Cosmos – who were made famous after recruiting world superstars Pele and Franz Beckenbauer – reformed again in 2011, but are currently in the North American Soccer League, a tier below the MLS. Cantona, who is famous for his kung fu kick on a fan during a game against Crystal Palace in 1995, won four Premier league titles in the five years he spent at Old Trafford.

Juventus' quest for a treble this season is still on course after they edged Lazio 2-1 after extra time in the Copa Italia Final last Wednesday. The finale to the Italian season got off to a high-octane start as Stefan Daniel Radu gave Lazio a shock lead after four minutes, heading home Danilo Cataldi's free-kick. But just seven minutes later Giorgio Chiellini pulled Juventus level again, turning home the equaliser with a fantastic scissor-kick after Patrice Evra headed down Andrea Pirlo's free-kick. Neither side could find a winner in regulation time as the match went into extra-time. Just minutes later Juventus found the winner. Pirlo was once again the orchestrator in the middle of the park as his sublime lofted through-ball found Carlos Tevez, who was tackled in the area, but the ball fell kindly for Alessandro Matri to sidefoot into the back of the net, off the gloves of Etrit Berisha.  Juventus will win the treble if they beat Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Final on June 6 having also won the Serie A title.

Herve Renard has returned to France’s Ligue 1 to take over at Lille. The 46-year-old, who was linked with the Bafana Bafana job before Shakes Mashaba took over, has signed a three-year contract after quitting his post with the Ivory Coast on Friday. “It is an honour to join such a prestigious club as LOSC,” Renard says. “It marks a very important day in my coaching career, and may the ones that will follow be even greater. I am now looking forward to starting this journey with my group. A very exciting challenge lies ahead of us and I am determined to tackle it with ambition.” Renard guided the Elephants to Africa Cup of Nations success earlier this year.

Bayern Munich ace Arjen Robben says there is more to his game than his well-known move where he steps in from the right flank before unleashing a left-footed shot. The 31-year-old is regarded as one of the game's top attackers, notably inspiring Bayern to a historic treble in 2013 before impressing in Holland's third-place finish at last year's World Cup. However, some critics have suggested Robben is one-dimensional - a claim he disputes. "Defenders cannot predict what I am going to do. That is the great thing about football. Every situation is different," Robben told the official Bundesliga magazine. “It is very important that your actions always have an element of surprise. You only make things easy for your opponent when you always do the same thing. I have added a certain variation to my game. I will not cut inside all the time, but I will not try to pass my opponent on the outside all the time, either. I always try to attack my direct opponent and then look at how he reacts. From there on, I do everything on intuition."

Schalke midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng is open to rejoining Serie A giants AC Milan and says he will make a decision on his future once he returns from holiday. The Ghana international, who left Milan in the summer of 2013, was recently put on gardening leave as his club questioned his commitment. Although Boateng remains under contract at the Bundesliga side he has been given permission to pursue a move. "A return to AC Milan? I love the city and would love to live there again. My girlfriend works there as well. I will take everything into consideration after my holiday. We had a great team during my previous spell at Milan. We had champions like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Clarence Seedorf. It's tough to see the team struggling, even though periods like these can happen to any team." Boateng went on to discuss his situation at the Veltins-Arena. "Schalke decided to kick me out of the team because they no longer had faith in me. We were playing in the Champions League last season, but there are problems now."

Bayern Munich attacker Franck Ribery is frustrated by his injury woes but says his condition is improving. The 32-year-old has been sidelined since March after damaging his ankle in a Champions League win over Shakhtar Donetsk. "My injury has been causing me problems for a long time now. It is all very frustrating and it annoys me. It is boring when you cannot play football. But I visited doctor [Hans-Wilhelm] Muller-Wohlfahrt this week for a check-up and my situation is improving. Things are a lot better. Everything is feeling just fine when I don't put any pressure on my foot, although it still hurts when I am walking." The France international scored nine goals in 23 appearances in all competitions for the Bavarians this season.

Petr Cech’s agent says his client will be keen on joining either of Arsenal, Manchester United or Paris Saint-Germain. Cech, once rated the best goalie in the world, has slipped behind Thibaut Courtois in the pecking order and made just six league starts this season. "Arsenal, United or PSG are all top clubs and Petr would like to join one of them – definitely," Viktor Kolar said. "Petr expects that Roman Abramovich, not [Jose] Mourinho, will decide about his future, based on their mutual agreement from last year."

Goalkeeper David De Gea walked home as the big winner last Tuesday night as Manchester United held their end of season awards dinner. The Spanish gloveman was named the Players' Player of the Season and Fans' Player of the Season following an impressive season, having kept 10 clean sheets in 37 League appearances as the Red Devils cemented their spot in the top four. Having won the fan’s award – known as the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year – De Gea becomes only the fourth player in the club’s history to win the award in successive season, joining a prestigious list which includes Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo. "I want to say thank you to my teammates, they have been fantastic this season," De Gea said after receiving the award. "We have a great dressing room and I would like to say thank you very much." It remains to be seen whether or not the 24-year-old will remain at Old Trafford next season, amid speculation that a move to Real Madrid is on the cards for the talented shot-stopper. In the evenings other major award category, Spanish midfielder Juan Mata walked away with the club’s Goal of the Season for his superb volley against Liverpool.

Uefa chief Michel Platini believes Fifa "will lack credibility" as long as Sepp Blatter remains at the helm. Blatter, 79, is seeking a fifth term in this week's presidential elections, with Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan his sole challenger following the late withdrawals of Luis Figo and Michael van Praag. Fifa has courted negative headlines in recent years, including claims of corruption relating to the bidding process for the next World Cup. And Platini, who has thrown his support behind Prince Ali, feels Blatter should step aside for the good of the game. "I have nothing against Sepp. I like him as a person and I respect him. We have had some good times together, and nothing and no one can take that away. [But] he does not have to lie. We all know that it [standing for re-election] is not because he has not finished his mission or because he still has big plans for Fifa. After 40 years at the head of an institution, that speech cannot be credible. No, he is simply afraid of tomorrow because he has dedicated his life to Fifa, so much so that he identifies with it completely. I understand the fear of that emptiness that he must have, it's natural. But if he really loves Fifa, he should have put its interests ahead of his own. And while he remains in place, whether he likes it or not, Fifa will lack credibility and its image will be tarnished." The Frenchman added: "I maintain, personally, [my support for] Prince Ali. I am convinced that Prince Ali, who I know personally, will make a great president of Fifa. He has all the qualities. He has been president of a national federation for 15 years, he was a member of the executive committee of his federation and vice-president of Fifa."

Manchester United have confirmed they will not extend Radamel Falcao's stay at the club. The Colombian striker joined United on a lucrative loan deal from Monaco in January, but has failed to match expectations at Old Trafford. "Falcao is a top professional and a good human being," Red Devils manager Louis van Gaal told MUTV. "On behalf of myself and everyone at the club I would like to wish him well for the future." The 29-year-old scored four goals in 26 Premier League appearances in 2014/15.

Stoke City striker Peter Crouch has expressed pride at setting a new record for most headed goals in the Premier League. The 34-year-old nodded home for the 47th time in City's 6-1 humiliation of his former club Liverpool yesterday, going one better than ex-Newcastle United marksman Alan Shearer. "I'm very proud and pleased to gain a new record and to some extent get it out the way this season," Crouch said. "It was amazing to come on and do it in front of the Boothen End, which I know is a very special place here [at the Britannia Stadium], and break the record. That's a highlight for me and hopefully there will be many more to come over the next couple of years.  It was coming and I’m incredibly pleased to have got it, but I'm also a little embarrassed because it was all about the team performance. We were incredible and it was nice for me to personally break the record but it was all about our first-half performance because it was incredible. That performance shows how far we have come as a team since I arrived, we are really playing with flair and style, so it's a privilege to be a part of it. We've just beaten Liverpool Football Club 6-1 and that is absolutely incredible."

Argentine legend Diego Maradona has launched a scathing attack on long-serving Fifa president Sepp Blatter ahead of this week's elections. Maradona, writing for The Telegraph, said: "Under Sepp Blatter, Fifa has become a disgrace and a painful embarrassment to those of us who care about football deeply. While I find almost no one openly supporting Blatter, many think he will win a fifth term. Why? The whole notion of a fifth term is an absurdity in 2015. No one has argued that he is the best man for the job and deserves to win. Recently he pledged to follow through in addressing racism in football and promoting women in the sport. That made me laugh. My question is: 'Sepp, what were you doing in your last four terms?' We have a dictator for life. I call Blatter 'the man of ice' because he lacks the inspiration and passion that are at the very heart of football. If this is the face of international football, we are in a very bad place."

West Ham have announced they have parted ways with manager Sam Allardyce. The 60-year- old steered the Hammers to promotion from the Championship in 2012 and has since kept the club in the Premier League. In a statement, joint-chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold said: "We would like to start by thanking Sam Allardyce for his valuable work since arriving at the Boleyn Ground four years ago.  He leaves the club in a considerably better state then when he arrived and, for that, the board are truly grateful." Sullivan and Gold added that Allardyce's successor will have "significant transfer funds" available for next season. West Ham finished 12th in the standings in 2014/15.

Newcastle United survived relegation at Hull City's expense. Newcastle beat mid-table West Ham United 2-0 courtesy of goals from Moussa Sissoko and Jonas Gutierrez at St James' Park. The Magpies would have been demoted had they lost and Hull defeated Manchester United at KC Stadium. However, the Tigers drew 0-0 with ten-man United, who had Marouane Fellaini sent off in the 77th minute for a studs-up challenge on Paul McShane. Hull will compete in the Championship next term along with fellow relegated teams Burnley and Queens Park Rangers. The Red Devils had already clinched a top-four finish to book a return to the Uefa Champions League.

Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick against Getafe in the final game of the La Liga season took his final overall goals tally to 61 for the 2014/15 campaign – his most prolific to date. The Real Madrid superstar has had another phenomenal season on the goalscoring front, netting 48 in La Liga to win the Pichichi for the fourth time, 10 in the Champions League and three in other cups. That's 61 goals in 54 appearances in all competitions, including 22 assists. His treble against Getafe was also his eighth hat-trick of the season, and his fourth in his last 10 games. Ronaldo's 48 league goals represents his highest League tally in six seasons, but falls two goals short of Lionel Messi's record of 50 goals in a League season set in 2011/12. Barcelona talisman Messi currently has 56 goals in 55 appearances in total this season – 43 in the league, 10 in the Champions League and three in other cups – and could add to that in the two-legged Copa del Rey semi-final against Athletic Bilbao and the Champions League Final against Juventus. He also has 27 assists.

Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola has hit back at his critics, and says he is not that good to be able to win the treble every single year. In his first season, Guardiola led the Bavarians to the German double, winning the Bundesliga as well as the DFB Pokal. This season the former Barcelona boss has come under fire in Germany, after Bayern were knocked out of the German cup as well as the UEFA Champions League semi-final stages. However, Guardiola has hit back at criticism and comparisons to former coach Jupp Heynckes, and admitted that he is not good enough to win a treble every season. "They speak too much here in Germany. They should have more respect for the German champions," said the Spaniard. "I've learnt that people talk too much here. My advice [to them] would be to stay calm. If Bayern Munich are looking for a manager that has to win the treble each year, then I'm not the one. I'm not good enough."

Yaya Toure will stay at Manchester City, according to his agent. Dimitri Seluk told Sky Sports News HQ that Inter Milan and other clubs made offers for Toure but claimed City had said the player was "too important to let go". Toure, who is reportedly City's highest earner on around £220,000 per week but Seluk denied that he had been pushing for a new, improved contract for the midfielder, who signed a four-year contract with City in April 2013. Toure featured for City in their final game of the Premier League season against Southampton in a 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium. The Ivory Coast international caused a stir last year after his agent said he felt "disrespected" by the club, who failed to acknowledge his 31st birthday but they did not make the same mistake on his 32nd birthday. City handed the midfielder a cheque for £720,000. There were rumours of an exit from the club, and a reunion with former manager Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan, but Toure remains a City player with two years still left on his contract.

Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling will "definitely not sign" a new contract with the club, according to the player's agent. Sterling's future has been the subject of intense speculation after he rejected lucrative fresh terms from the Reds, with the 20-year-old believed to desire a move away from Anfield. Sterling's representative Aidy Ward previously downplayed rumours of his client's wish for a switch. However, he has now ruled out an extended stay for the England international, whose existing deal expires in 2017. Ward said in the Evening Standard: “I don’t care about the PR of the club and the club situation. I don’t care. He is definitely not signing. He’s not signing for £700, £800, £900 thousand a week. He is not signing. My job is to make sure I do the best with them (my clients). If people say I am bad at my job, or they are badly advised it does not matter.” He added: "How did all this occur? There is no smoke without fire. I am not worried. Worried is making a decision not knowing what is going to happen. Every Premier League club will make a bid for him.”

Aston Villa have completed the permanent signing of winger Scott Sinclair from Manchester City after his successful loan spell. The 26-year-old midfielder has already spent more than three months at Villa Park, having joined on loan in January. He has penned a four-year deal with the Premier League club. Sinclair has made 11 appearances since moving to Villa, including three in the FA Cup.

Roberto Di Matteo has resigned as manager of Schalke after seven-and-a-half months with the club. Di Matteo lifted the team from 11th to third in the Bundesliga after taking charge in October. However, defeat by struggling Hamburg on Saturday left Schalke with two wins from their final 10 games to miss out on a Champions League berth. "[Sporting director] Horst Heldt and I have not only looked back at the last seven months but also looked ahead at the upcoming season," said Di Matteo. I laid out my plan for a potentially successful future and I pointed out which means were necessary for achieving our goals. Although those talks were always constructive it was clear that the club wanted to go for other key aspects. For me, a new start seems to be the best solution for all parties involved because of the burden of the unsatisfying second half of last season and because I cannot guarantee that I can lead the club to the successes it expects under these circumstances. That is why I came to the decision to quit as the coach." The 44-year-old steered Chelsea to the 2012 Champions League title but was replaced by Rafael Benitez after eight months.