International News - Issue 262

Liverpool Snap Up Ings and Milner
Liverpool have agreed a deal to sign striker Danny Ings when his contract with Burnley expires on July 1. Ings will switch alliances next month subject to a medical. “Liverpool FC are delighted to announce that they have agreed personal terms with Danny Ings and, subject to a medical, the striker will join the club on July 1 after his contract with Burnley has expired,” read a club statement. The 22-year-old, who has nine caps for the England U-21 side, netted 11 goals in 35 Premier League appearances last season. Ings struck 21 times in the previous campaign to help the Clarets gain promotion from Championship.

Liverpool have moved quickly into the transfer market after a disappointing end to the season, announcing on Thursday that midfielder James Milner was joining them from Manchester City. The 29-year-old, who has 53 caps for England, is out of contract at City and will join Liverpool on a free transfer on 1 July.  While the signing of a hard-working player who won two Premier League titles at City in five years since joining from Aston Villa is a coup for Liverpool, it also signifies the start of a squad makeover at City. City’s aging squad finished eight points behind champions Chelsea in the Premier League and Manuel Pellegrini will be given a large budget to freshen things up this summer, having been restricted by Uefa’s financial fair play (FFP) rules during the last two windows. Last season City’s starting 11 regularly averaged nearly 30, with the likes of Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis and Fernandinho all 30 plus. Milner, however, still has plenty to offer and was arguably one of City’s best performers last season so his capture is a boost for manager Brendan Rodgers who will be under pressure to get Liverpool back in the top four next season after finishing sixth in this campaign.

Manchester United forward Robin van Persie says his desire for regular game-time will play a role in deciding his future. The Dutchman, who is reportedly being targeted by Juventus, fell down the pecking order at United last season as manager Louis van Gaal preferred to employ Wayne Rooney as a lone striker during the second half of the campaign. And Van Persie is determined to avoid a similar situation next term as he seeks to make an impact at the European Championships in France. "It is my ambition to play as many games as possible. I feel fitter than ever. I know that the more games I play, the more it will help me prepare for the European Championships next summer. As a player you want to arrive at tournaments with good match time and not as a bench-sitter. I know that when you are at a club like Man United, you have to accept that you cannot always play or be guaranteed a starting place. It is like a beast. It is so big and strong and it can do wonderful things for you, but it also has a negative side and that is what I have got to decide on this summer. United spent £200 million on players last year and they are going to spend another £200m this summer, so we will have a team that can compete for the title. I will take everything into consideration when I decide on my future and I know I have to be realistic about the situation." The 31-year-old revealed he has chatted with former teammate and current Juve defender Patrice Evra about life at the Champions League finalists. "I still speak to my old mate Patrice. He has told me stories about how Juventus train, how hard they work, and how they manage to be successful," he added. "They have a fantastic spirit in their team. They have a totally different approach from English or Dutch players before games. They grab each other by the head, they shout at each other to pump each other up. And they also have big running sessions after games. Patrice has told me that there are so many ways to be successful and that you can’t say one way or another is perfect."

Paul Scholes was unimpressed with England's performance in a 0-0 draw with Republic of Ireland on Sunday, with the former labelling the affair a "waste of an afternoon". The Three Lions, who have a Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia on June 14, battled to create chances at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, while the hosts forced Joe Hart into action on occasion. "Jack Wilshere probably the only one who played well. Chris Smalling did quite well I suppose," Scholes told ITV. "Apart from that, on either side there was a real lack of quality. A waste of an afternoon really," added the retired 40-year-old, who earned 66 caps for England.

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has revealed Juventus star Paul Pogba is "a leading target" for the treble winners. The Catalans, who beat Juve to Champions League honours on Saturday, are currently banned from signing players until 2016. However, they remain on the lookout for fresh talent. Bartomeu said: "It is true that Pogba is a leading target of ours and obviously we are interested, but I can't say anything more. We are forbidden to recruit players until January, so I can't talk about it." Juve CEO Giuseppe Marotta, however, insisted the French midfielder is staying put. "Juventus wants to win the Champions League next season and Pogba is an important player. He will be here next season for sure, 100 per cent." Pogba, 22, is contracted to the Serie A and Coppa Italia champions until 2019.

Premier League returnees Watford have hired former Atletico Madrid manager Quique Flores. The 50-year-old has penned a two-year contract with the Hornets. Flores, who won the Europa League and Uefa Super Cup with Atletico in 2010, joined Getafe in January but resigned before the end of February. He has also coached Valencia, Benfica and UAE outfits Ahli and Al Ain. Watford will compete in the topflight for the first time since 2006-07 after finishing runners-up in the Championship last season.

Colombia striker Radamel Falcao says he is keen to continue playing in the English Premier League, despite being released from Manchester United. The 29-year-old did not make the desired impact at Old Trafford this season, scoring just four goals in 26 appearances while on loan from French club Monaco, as United decided not to keep the forward on for next season. On his return to Monaco last month however, the former Atletico Madrid and Porto frontman says he hopes to continue playing in England. "It has been speculated a lot about my next team, but I tried to stay calm. I would like to continue in England, we'll decide [my next team] in the coming weeks." Reports from England claim reigning Premier League champions Chelsea are keen on bringing the striker to Stamford Bridge, following Didier Drogba’s retirement, with Valencia also linked with a move for the Colombian. Falcao was announced as captain of his national team that will be participating in the Copa America, scheduled to start this weekend. Colombia have been drawn in Group C alongside Peru, Venezuela and Brazil.

Sepp Blatter has announced his decision to resign as Fifa president. The announcement comes just five days after he was re-elected for a fifth term as the number one of football’s governing body. However, the corruption scandal which has rocked FifA has caused a rethink, with Blatter calling on the executive committee to elect a new president “as soon as possible”. "I have thoroughly considered my presidency and thought about my presidency and the last 40 years in my life,” the 79-year-old said. "These years were closely related to Fifa and this wonderful sport of football; I appreciate and love Fifa more than anything else and only want to do the best for football and Fifa and our institution.  I decided to stand again to be elected because I was convinced it was the best option for football. The challenges that Fifa are facing have not come to an end." Blatter added: "Although the members of Fifa gave me a new mandate, this mandate does not seem to be supported by everyone in the world. This is why I will call an extraordinary congress to be held as soon as possible for a new president elected to follow me as new president with a new election held." 

Angel Di Maria has eased speculation over his future by insisting he will be at Manchester United next season. The Argentina attacker has failed to match expectations at Old Trafford following his British record £59.7 million signing from Real Madrid last summer. Di Maria's struggles prompted reports linking him with moves to Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. However, he maintains he will return to the Red Devils after competing in the Copa America. "I have just finished my first season playing for Manchester United. It was a hard season for me. I think it was hard because it was another country and another league, and this league is harder than the Spanish one. So, I couldn't adapt myself as I wanted to. Now I will play the Copa America and then I will move back to Manchester for next season and do my best there."

Manager David Moyes has revealed he was desperate to sign Gareth Bale during his ill-fated stay at Manchester United. United were contenders to recruit Bale from Tottenham before the winger opted to join Real Madrid for a world-record €100 million fee in September 2013. “Gareth Bale is an outstanding player,” Moyes told Sky Sports. “I was desperate to take him to Manchester United from Tottenham, but couldn’t quite get him. He had his heart set on going to Real Madrid. “He was very much on my radar as soon as I went to United. “He can score goals, can make goals, he’s got speed, he’s physically capable, and I think next year he will be a big star in Madrid.” The Real Sociedad boss, who was sacked after eight months at Old Trafford, has backed the Welshman to bounce back from the heavy criticism he endured over his performances in 2014/15. “It is down to settling in. David de Gea took time to settle at Manchester United, it is not easy,” said the Scot.

Italian champions Juventus have completed the signing of Palermo forward Paulo Dybala. The Argentine enjoyed a stellar season, scoring 13 goals to help his Serie A club to 11th in the Italian standings this season while attracting interest from around Europe following a number of impressive displays. However, it was local rivals Juve who won the race for the 21-year-old’s signature, signing the youngster for an initial €32 million, which could rise to €40 million based on various performance-related add-ons. Dybala has signed a five-year deal with the club and becomes the Bianconeri’s second acquisition following the arrival of Real Madrid’s German midfielder Sami Khedira.

Barcelona striker Pedro Rodriguez has agreed to sign a contract extension with the club that will run until 2019. The 27-year-old, whose current deal expires in June 2016, will retain a buyout clause of €150 million. Rodriguez has netted 11 goals and provided eight assists in 49 appearances in all competitions for the Champions League finalists this season.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has been charged by the FA for misconduct following inappropriate comments made while celebrating his side’s FA Cup victory. The Gunners captured a record 12th FA Cup title with a 4-0 win over Aston Villa two weeks back, and during their victory parade on Sunday, Wilshere took the microphone and lead the club’s supporters in chants containing expletives against rival club Tottenham Hotspur, for which he has now been charged. This is the second time the 23-year-old has been in hot water over a similar issue, having been warned over similar conduct following Arsenal’s FA Cup win over Hull City last season.

Ousted Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has turned down an offer to re-unite with former Serie A side AC Milan. Ancelotti spent eight successful years as coach of the Rossoneri between 2001 and 2009, delivering two Champions League titles after a successful playing career at the San Siro, with the Italian outfit keen to bring back the experienced tactician after his sacking at the Santiago Bernabeu. Milan officials met with the former PSG and Chelsea boss last week, who admitted a return to Milan stood as “50-50” – yet the 55-year-old confirmed late on Tuesday that he would not be making a return to the Guiseppe Meazza. “Thanks to AC Milan for their support interest,” Ancelotti tweeted from his official account. “It was hard to say no to such beloved club to me but I need some rest. I wish them the best.” Ancelotti will undergo a back operation in Canada, before returning to Italy for the birth of his grandchild. The Rossoneri are still expected to part ways with current first team coach Filippo Inzaghi, who in his first year at the helm, could only manage a tenth-place finish in Serie A.

Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho insists he needs a new striker for next season to bolster his squad. The Blues were led upfront by Spanish forward Diego Costa, who was backed up by fellow strikers Loic Remy and Didier Drogba. With the veteran Ivorian frontman leaving Stamford Bridge, Mourinho is now searching for a new forward in order to have three quality hitmen at his disposal. “We have to buy a striker because we want to have three strikers of a good level. We do not want to have just one [transfer target]. Then you lose a good position on the negotiation table." The Portuguese manager wants to improve his squad, but feels this is a difficult task following the championship-winning season. "It will be difficult to find players to go straight into the team," he said. "Because it's not easy to find a better striker than Diego (Costa), a better keeper than (Thibaut) Courtois, a better midfield player than (Nemanja) Matic or (Cesc) Fabregas. This season is about improving the squad, bringing players to make us more consistent, so we don't go through difficult periods like last season when we had crucial injuries. We have to try and protect that situation by adding two or three players." And Mourinho is adamant he will not lose any of his current stars in his squad. "We will be better," Mourinho added. "I don't see our team losing players. I don't see our team losing our qualities, especially our mental, emotional approach to matches, to the season, to the competition."

The agent of Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema says his client is not leaving the La Liga club, insisting he wishes to retire at the Santiago Bernabeu. The 27-year-old enjoyed a solid campaign with Los Blancos, scoring 22 goals in 46 matches across all competitions, yet sources in Spain believe new coach Rafa Benitez is not a fan of the Frenchman, with speculation mounting over a possible move away from the Spanish capital. Yet the player’s representative Karim Djaziri insists the forward wants to see out his contract with the Galacticos, which runs until 2019. "Karim wants to see out his contract. He wants to retire at Real Madrid,” he said. Djaziri insists he has not spoken to any club other than Madrid following links to Manchester United, before insisting he is happy to remain with the Spanish giants. I haven't met with any club in London,” he said. “Not with United and not with anyone else. We haven't held talks with anyone other than Real Madrid. What is Karim going to do in Manchester?” the agent continued. “He's happy in Madrid. He doesn't want to leave. Benzema would only leave if Real Madrid told him he was surplus to requirements, because he isn't going to leave of his own accord.”

Aston Villa have offered a new contract to Ron Vlaar but have released striker Darren Bent. Vlaar's current deal expires at the end of the month, with the Holland international previously thought to be on his way out of the club he joined from Feyenoord in 2012. The 30-year-old defender has made 88 outings for Villa and captained the team before losing the armband to Fabian Delph this past season. The Villans, meanwhile, have confirmed the departure of £24million signing Bent. Bent scored 25 goals in 72 appearances following a club record transfer from Sunderland in 2011. The 31-year-old spent time on loan at Brighton and Derby last season, netting 12 goals in 13 starts for the Rams as they missed out on the Championship play-offs.

Nyasha Mushekwi continued with his fine scoring form last night after slamming home the opener for his Swedish club Djurgardens IF in their 1-1 draw against Malmo FF. Mushekwi – who is on loan at Djurgardens from parent club Mamelodi Sundowns – remains the leading goal scorer in Sweden after stretching his total for the season to 10 goals. The forward has scored his goals from 11 starts, really impressive for a striker who only joined the club at the beginning of the season after spending most of last year battling with a knee injury which forced him to cut short his loan spell at Belgian club KV Oostende. The 27-year-old joined Djurgardens at the end of March and his goal scoring form has ignited interest from Allsvenskan leaders IFK Goteborg along with clubs from Holland and Germany. His representatives favour a move to England for the man who scored 40 goals in 53 starts during his time at Sundowns.

Thousands of Barcelona's fans flocked to the city centre on Sunday to celebrate with their team a day after winning their fifth European Cup and completed a historic treble of titles. Having already won the Spanish league and Copa del Rey trophies, Barcelona became the first team to complete a sweep of the Champions League and its two main domestic competitions in the same season on two separate occasions. Barcelona first achieved the rare feat in 2009. Festivities ran through the night as thousands of Barcelona fans gathered near the city's main square after the team's 3-1 victory over Juventus. On their return from Berlin, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta carried the large, elephant-eared trophy down the steps from Barcelona's chartered plane at El Prat airport. Lionel Messi and the rest of Barcelona's talented team were then whisked to an open-top bus, which paraded them through the Catalan capital. The three trophies won this season sat on the top of the bus with the players and coaching staff, who ate pizza before setting off on the slow trip through the city under the late afternoon sun. They waved, took photos and shot confetti into the crowd lining the streets. Neymar and Messi nibbled on a burger thrown to them by a fan as their celebrations reached fever pitch. The team then
continued the party at the Camp Nou. The club said the 67,000 free tickets for the event were snatched up hours before the festivities began.

Barcelona have agreed a deal with Sevilla to sign versatile wide-man Aleix Vidal for £7.5million, plus performance related add-ons of up to £5m. Vidal is set to put pen to paper on a five-year contract with the Catalan giants after an impressive season in which he played a key part in his team's run to winning the Europa League. The winger, who has frequently been deployed as a right-back this season by coach Unai Emery, is expected to replace Dani Alves - another former Sevilla player - who still hasn't signed a new deal, with his current contract ending on June 30. Because of the club's transfer ban, they can sign Vidal but not register him until January 2016, so he will likely have to sit out the first few months of next season. However, given the opportunity playing for a club like Barcelona offers, it is a sacrifice he is willing to make. Vidal, who turns 26 in August, was born in Catalonia, and after impressing for Almeria was signed by Sevilla in the summer of 2014. Barcelona have a good relationship with Sevilla and may also loan them a player next season, though that is not officially part of the deal. Gerard Deulofeu and Denis Suarez went to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan this year, with the latter on a two-year loan deal.

Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief executive John Delaney has revealed that his organisation received a $5 million payment not to contest Thierry Henry’s controversial handball incident in court. The French striker caused was caught in a storm of controversy after his handball in a 2010 World Cup qualifier set up William Gallas’ extra-time winner in their second-leg play-off which sent France to the World Cup in South Africa ahead of the Republic of Ireland. The referee had not spotted the incident, leaving the FAI furious and wanting to settle the matter in court, until Fifa’s sly intervention. "We felt we had a legal case against Fifa because of how the World Cup playoff hadn't worked out for us with the Henry handball,” Delaney told RTE Radio 1. "Also the way Blatter behaved, if you remember on stage, having a snigger and having a laugh at us. That day when I went in, and I told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used. We came to an agreement. That was a Thursday and on Monday the agreement was all signed and all done. It's a very good agreement for the FAI and a very legitimate agreement for the FAI. I'm bound by confidentiality for naming the figure. You've put a figure out there and fair play to you. It was a payment to the association to not proceed with a legal case. In there, they signed a confidentiality agreement where I can't talk about the amount involved. Later on Thursday, Fifa confirmed that the payment was a “loan” which they intended to get back if Ireland did not qualify for the 2014 World Cup. "Fifa granted FAI a loan of $5 million for the construction of a stadium in Ireland,” a statement issued by Fifa read.” At the same time, UEFA also granted the FAI funds for the same stadium. "The terms agreed between Fifa and the FAI were that the loan would be reimbursed if Ireland qualified for the 2014 Fifa World Cup. Ireland did not so qualify. Because of this, and in view of the FAI's financial situation, FIFA decided to write off the loan as per 31 December 2014." Former Britain Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce, who stepped down last week, labelled the situation “ridiculous” and hopes a full investigation will follow. "I'm absolutely astounded - I have never heard anything as ridiculous in my life,” he told FA Sport. “If a payment of $5 million has been paid because of a handball and threatened legal action then I hope a full investigation will be carried out into this and any other such arbitrary payments."