International News - Issue 261

Benitez Set To Be Announced Real Madrid Manager
Rafa Benitez says he "can't wait" to start his reign at Real Madrid. Benitez is set to be unveiled as Real's new manager on Wednesday after concluding his stay with Napoli with a home loss to Lazio on Sunday. The 55-year-old will succeed Carlo Ancelotti at the Bernabeu, with the Italian dismissed a week ago following a trophyless campaign for Los Blancos. "I am ready,” Benitez said as he left for Spain. I can't wait to be there." Benitez, who spent most of his playing career with Madrid's B team, joined the Partenopei in 2013, leading them to the Coppa Italia and a third-placed finish in his first season in charge. However, the defeat to Lazio ended the club's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea has given little indication of his plans as he continues to be linked with a move to Real Madrid. United manager Louis van Gaal recently stated De Gea's future is in own hands, with Real keen to bring the former Atletico Madrid keeper back to the Spanish capital. "We will see what happens regarding my future," De Gea said to Spanish sports newspaper AS. "Right now I'm on holiday." De Gea, who has a year left on his contact at Old Trafford, joined the Red Devils from Atletico in a £17.8million deal in 2011. The 24-year-old has made 133 appearances for the Premier League giants.

Coach Jurgen Klopp admits he struggled to bid farewell to Borussia Dortmund's players following the club's DFB-Pokal disappointment on the weekend. Dortmund lost 3-1 to Wolfsburg in the final on Saturday in what was Klopp's final game in charge of BVB. In his seven seasons at Westfalenstadion, Klopp won the Bundesliga twice, the Pokal once and reached the Champions League final in 2013.  "I can't express what is going through my head right now," Klopp said at the team's end-of-season party. Over the course of the last seven years an incredible amount has happened, I've learnt so much, it has just been so emotional, special. We'll take that with us for the rest of our lives. I will always be thankful to you for that. It's been crazy what we've experienced together. People told me that if we'd won the DFB Cup this season, it would've been a bit of a cheesy ending. Perhaps a bit too American... I'm happy that we're all so realistic. It's better that way." He added: "I put my arm around each of the lads, one after another, and hugged them goodbye. Hard. Honestly. Really hard. But it's not so important what people think of you when you arrive. It's extremely important what people think of you once you're gone. I'd like to thank you for the thoughts you've expressed tonight. We'll take that with us, carry it around with us wherever we end up in this world. It's not something we'll ever forget."

Klopp has ruled out any possibility of taking over Liverpool this summer after confirming he will be taking a break from the game until further notice. “After seven intense and emotional years, I think it's a good idea to let the numerous memories settle in before I take on a new challenge with my coaching team, refreshed and fully motivated. I'm going to take a break until further notice.”

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger insists there is no need to break the bank on new transfers for next season, but insists “we will spend”. The Gunners secured a record 12th FA Cup trophy with a 4-0 drubbing of Aston Villa on Saturday, defending the title they won last year, and will now look to compete for the Premier League next season – a title they have not won in 11 years. Wenger has suggested he will look to bring in a defensive midfielder and goalkeeper to bolster his squad, but insisted the club will not be making bids similar to the numbers offered for the likes of Paul Pogba and Gareth Bale. “We have not spent that kind of money,” he told reporters. “People forget that for years we had to sell our best players and that was a very difficult period. That is the reality. Since we started to buy again, we have slowly come back to a more competitive level. But you speak maybe about stratospheric numbers where we will not be involved. Not at that level. It’s simple. I do not want to tell you how much money we have. But I have not made a clear decision yet for what I will do.” The Frenchman however insisted the London club will be spending money on “quality” new recruits. “Don’t rule anything out and I will not tell you as well how much money we will spend,” he said. “But I’m always more focused on quality. I want a good rapport between price and quality. Santi Cazorla was voted man of the match in the FA Cup final. I don’t think he cost €150 million. Francis Coquelin was one of the best players on the pitch. I am not against spending money. I have shown that recently.”

Barcelona star Lionel Messi feels teammate Dani Alves is the best full-back in the game, while also lauding Spanish midfielder Xavi Hernandez as his Barca career comes to an end. Alves’ future at the Camp Nou remains in doubt, with the Brazilian unhappy with the terms offered by the Spanish club as his contract draws to a close. Yet Argentine teammate Messi hopes Alves remains in Catalonia, saying the 32-year-old possesses a unique skill set that makes him one of the best in his position in the world. "He is the best full-back in the world, Messi told “It is very difficult nowadays to find someone else like him.” Another teammate who will definitely be making his last appearance for the Blaugrana in Saturday's Champions League Final is decorated midfielder Xavi Hernandez, who after 24 years at the club, will be joining Qatar side Al Sadd. And Messi heaped praise on the veteran, labelling his as one of the best Spain has produced. "Everyone knows what Xavi is on the pitch," Messi said. "He's a player who dictates tempo, gives you a pass where you want it, reads the game very well. It was a pleasure for me to spend so much time alongside him. He's the best player in the history of Spain."

Barcelona completed a Spanish double on Saturday night after winning the Copa del Rey Final 3-1 against Athletic Bilbao. It took 20 minutes for the irrepressible Lionel Messi to stamp his authority on proceedings with another sublime goal to get things started. Neymar made it 2-0 in the 37th minute with the simplest of tap-ins after Luis Suarez was played through on goal by Ivan Rakitic and the Uruguayan striker put it on a plate for his teammate. Messi got his second on the night and Barca's third in the 74th minute to seal the result, ghosting in at the near post to turn home Alves' cross from the right. Twenty-year-old half-Ghanaian, half-Liberian Spanish junior international Inaki Williams scored a consolation goal for Bilbao in the 80th minute with a looping header. Club legend Xavi – who is set to move to Qatar – nearly added a fourth near the end but his long-range strike hit the upright. Barcelona can complete the treble if they beat Juventus in the UEFA Champions League Final on June 6.

Sepp Blatter has been re-elected as FIFA President for an unprecedented fifth consecutive time, after Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein withdrew from the race. The voting took a surprising turn as Blatter failed to collect two-thirds majority of the votes from the 209 FIFA delegates in Zurich. After the first round of votes, it was announced that Blatter received 133 votes to Prince Ali's 73, meaning three votes were deemed invalid. However, the Jordanian Prince then announced his withdrawal before the second round could start, meaning Blatter would stay on as head of the world's football governing body. According to the procedure, if a second round were to take place, the winner would only need a majority vote - meaning 105 of the 209 votes. Breakdown of voting FIFA members by region: Africa CAF (54), Europe UEFA (53), North America CONCACAF (35) South America CONMEBOL (10) Asia (46) Oceania (11).

Rio Ferdinand has announced his retirement from all professional football. The 36-year-old last played at Queens Park Rangers, with who he got relegated this past season. He enjoyed more success during his 12 years with Manchester United, where he won 6 Premier League titles, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup and the UEFA Champions League.  Ferdinand, who also played for West Ham United and Leeds United, won 81 caps for England. “After 18 years as a professional footballer I now feel it’s the right time for me to retire from the game that I love,” he said in a statement. “As a 12-year-old boy, kicking around a football on the Friary Estate in Peckham, I never dreamt that I would play for my boyhood club West Ham, captain Leeds United, win the Champions League with Manchester United, or re-join my first manager Harry Redknapp at Queens Park Rangers. I will always regard the 81 times that I played for England, with immense pride. These are all treasured memories that will last a lifetime. I’d like to thank Chris Ramsey, Harry Redknapp, David O’Leary and David Moyes who managed me at various times in my career, all the backroom staff who looked after me over the years, and the players that I played with. I’d also like to thank the team who managed me off the pitch, Jamie Moralee and everybody at New Era. Winning trophies over my 13 years at Manchester United allowed me to achieve everything that I desired in football. From a young child to today, that was all I cared about. None of that would have been possible without the genius of one man, Sir Alex Ferguson. His greatest accomplishment in my eyes will always be how he developed us as men, not just as footballers. He will in my opinion, always be the greatest manager in British football history.”

Tottenham Hotspur have completed the signing of Austrian defender Kevin Wimmer. The 22-year-old has signed a five-year contract, with Spurs paying German club a reported £4million for his services. Wimmer joined Cologne in 2012 from LASK Kinz and made 72 appearances.

Africa will again have five representatives at the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups. This follows a decision at the annual FIFA congress in Zurich, the day after Sepp Blatter was elected as president for a fifth successive term, amid the scandals currently rocking the organization. As per the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Africa will have five countries in Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022. Europe has 13, Asia 4.5, North, Central America and Caribbean 3.5, Oceania 0.5 and South America 4.5. FIFA also announced that, in accordance to their rotation system, any country outside of Asia can bid for the right to host the 2026 World Cup.

Brazilian club Santos say they are suing Barcelona, Neymar and the player’s father. The forward moved to the Nou Camp in 2013, and Santos insist that Barcelona still owe them some compensation. “Santos made an official complaint to Fifa against Barcelona, Mr. Neymar da Silva Santos Jr., Neymar Silva Santos and Neymar Sport Marketing Ltd,” Santos president Modesto Roma Jr told reporters. "On May 31, two years will have passed since Santos and the mentioned agreed on a transfer in which the player's rights were sold to Barcelona for €17.1 million, plus a clause of €2m if the player was among the finalists for the Fifa Ballon d'Or. Santos then got to know that the value for the player's sale rose to the sum of €83m. Santos considers that Barcelona, Neymar and his company owe this club compensation, and believe that the Barcelona directors may suffer sanctions for these actions. This action isn't against a club idol, but rather for Santos. We could not keep quiet in the face of this situation. We respect everyone, but we need redress for the damage caused to the club."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has vowed to restore parity within football's governing body, following the corruption scandal which hit earlier this week. Despite calls for Blatter to quite as FIFA boss, the 79-year-old has not only distanced himself from any wrong-doing but also promises to return the federation to its "strong" state. The Swiss-born football administrator thanked the executive members who re-elected him into power and has vowed to work to improve the state of affairs in his fifth term at the helm. "I promise by the end of my term I will give this FIFA to my successor in a very strong position. A strong FIFA, a robust FIFA," he said.  "I have said before I take responsibility to bring back FIFA. We will do it together - I am convinced we can do it. Nobody is perfect, [but] we will do a good job together I am sure. I thank you for the trust and confidence. I am a faithful man, now God, Allah or whoever we believe in, they will help us to bring back FIFA."

Premier League new boys AFC Bournemouth have acquired the services of Ghana international midfielder Christian Atsu Atsu will join join fellow African, and Bafana Bafana striker, Tokelo Rantie at the newly promoted outfit on a season-long laon, pending the Premier League's approval. The Chelsea midfielder has failed to break into Jose Mourinho's side since joining from FC Porto in 2013, and has so far loan spells at Italian side Vitesse as well as Everton. Bournemouth have so far signed two goalkeepers and a striker, with Atsu being their fourth signing since confirming their top flight status in April this year.  The one condition of his loan, though, is that the 23-year-old will not be eligible to feature against his parent club next season.

Reports in Italy suggest German midfielder Sami Khedira has passed a medical at Italian champions Juventus, and is set to join by the end of the week. The World Cup winner has played a bit-part role at La Liga giants Real Madrid this season, making just 17 appearances across all competitions this campaign. With his contract up in June, Khedira confirmed in March that he would be leaving the Santiago Bernabeu, with a switch to the Old Lady the likely destination after the 28-year-old reportedly passed a medical in Spain under the supervision of Juventus officials. The Bianconeri are expected to confirm the signing later this week. Following his limited game-time in Spain, Khedira last week revealed he felt “frozen out” at Madrid after being excluded despite overcoming a number of injuries earlier in the season. “I did have a small injury, a pain in my right heel, but that wasn’t why I wasn’t playing,” he said. “It wasn’t a complicated injury. I was able to play. I’ve always felt that I’ve had the coach’s backing but the message indirectly came through to me that I was no longer needed. I was frozen out and wouldn’t have a chance to continue playing. It’s not the end that I wanted. It hurts that I’m accused of a lack of professionalism because I’ve always put the team ahead of myself. I’ve always gone with the truth.” Khedira leaves Madrid after five years having won one La Liga title, two Spanish Cups as well as last season’s Uefa Champions League crown.

The agent of Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli insists the Italian will still be at Anfield next season. The former Manchester City and AC Milan striker endured a disappointing return to England this season, scoring just four goals in 28 appearances across all competitions for the Reds, as rumours circulated that the 24-year-old could be on his way out. Yet Balotelli’s representative Mino Raiola has brushed aside such speculation, insisting his client will remain on Merseyside. “No, he had talks with Liverpool and he will definitely stay,” Raiola told Sky Sports. Despite a number of the off-the-field incidents, including various controversial Instagram posts, ‘Super Mario’s’ agent insists the club has been happy with the forward’s behaviour, yet acknowledges he needs to show an improvement on the pitch. “The club were happy with him as a professional,” Raoila said. “Obviously he may have to improve the performances but I’m pretty confident that will happen next year.”

Having not yet left for new MLS club LA Galaxy, Steven Gerrard is already promising a return to boyhood club Liverpool. The English midfielder played his last game for the Reds on the weekend, ending a 17-year association with the Merseyside club as he embarks on a new adventure in America. "It's been a massive honour to be captain of this club for so long,” Gerrard wrote in a letter on Liverpool’s official website. "I've always given my best and tried to lead by example. But today is all about looking back and saying thank you to the fans for the magnificent support you have given me over the past two decades. You have helped me to fulfil my dreams over and over again and given me memories I wouldn't swap for anything. Liverpool is my home and I love this city. But I believe the time is right to open a new chapter as I prepare to move to America. I want to keep playing every week in the final few years of my career and I'm looking forward to embarking on a new challenge with Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS.” The 34-year-old is however already thinking about a return to Anfield, where he still hopes to contribute in future. “I'll be away for the next couple of years but this isn't the end of my long association with Liverpool FC,” he continued. “I've been a supporter all my life and that will continue. I hope to get the opportunity to come back and serve the club again one day. I feel that I can make a contribution in some role in the future." Gerrard’s 710 appearances for Liverpool puts him third in the all-time appearance list, as he leaves the club having won two FA Cups, three League Cups, the Uefa Champions League, Uefa Cup and two Uefa Super Cups.

Liverpool defender Kolo Toure has penned a one-year contract extension at Anfield, while Andrew Wisdom has also signed a new deal. The former Ivory Coast international has made 32 Premier League appearances in two years with the Reds, and at 34 is likely to remain a squad player. Wisdom, 22, has committed his future to the club until 2019. Nigeria-eligible winger Jordan Ibe, 19, recently signed a new five-year contract while Jon Flanagan, 22, penned a one-year extension.