International News - Issue 264

Petr To Check In At Arsenal
Arsene Wenger will end his two-year wait to sign Petr Cech when his £11million switch to Arsenal is rubber-stamped this week. Following lengthy talks between Chelsea and the Gunners, the north London club are now supremely confident of snaring their top transfer target on a three-year deal, worth in the region of £100,000-per-week. There was no official confirmation from Arsenal, Chelsea or Cech's representatives on Monday night, however it is widely understood Arsenal - barring an astonishing collapse in the deal - will complete the formalities of transfer before ratifying the move in the coming days. The swoop ends Wenger's long wait to land the Czech Republic international. The Gunners first plotted an audacious attempt to land Cech in the summer of 2013 - though they were quickly informed the keeper wasn't for sale. At the time, Arsenal believed Thibaut Courtois was returning to Stamford Bridge for the 2013/14 season meaning Cech may be available. There was further interest last summer, but again the Blues were unwilling to sell the goalkeeper. But with Courtois firmly established as Chelsea's first-choice goalkeeper, Arsenal have finally secured their long-term target. The Gunners found initial resistance to the proposed move from Stamford Bridge boss Jose Mourinho.  The Portuguese was extremely hesitant in allowing Cech join Arsenal, fearing the move would significantly strengthen the Gunners. Arsenal, though, has always been Cech's first-choice option this summer, due to the fact he didn't want to uproot his family. And, with owner Roman Abramovich's blessing, the former Rennes keeper will get his wish. Chelsea initially asked Arsenal to include Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as part of the deal, but the proposal was instantly rejected by Arsenal. And, after weeks of negotiations between the two clubs, an agreement for Cech's transfer is virtually completed. Ironically, Cech's debut for Arsenal could come against Chelsea in the Community Shield at Wembley on August 2. The clash could see Cech and Blues skipper John Terry go head-to-head after 11 trophy-laden years together. And Terry believes Cech's switch across the capital will be worth up to 15 points for Wenger's side next season. “I am sure if he does leave the club, which nobody wants to see, but we understand he wants to play football, he is going to be sorely missed,' said the former England captain. 'He will improve whatever side he goes to. There is obviously talk of Arsenal signing Petr and if they do get Pete, that will strengthen them for sure. He will save them 12 to 15 points a season.” Arsenal would prefer to sell the Colombian rather than Wojciech Szczesny as the Pole qualifies as a homegrown player. Chelsea are interested in Stoke's Asmir Begovic and Queens Park Rangers' Robert Green as replacements for Cech.

Bertrand Traore will have an opportunity to prove he merits a place in Chelsea’s first-team squad when he travels with the senior party on their tour of the United States next month after the Burkina Faso teenager was granted a work permit to play in England. The winger turned centre-forward who first alerted Chelsea’s scouts to his talents as a 14-year-old at the Under-17 World Cup in 2009 while he was still being developed by the French club Auxerre, officially signed professional terms on a four-and-a-half-year contract with the Premier League champions in January 2014. The 19-year-old has spent the past 18 months on loan at Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands, impressing consistently last season when he scored 17 goals in all competitions to help them finish fifth and win the play-offs for a Europa League place. His regular involvement with Burkina Faso, including in the Africa Cup of Nations this year, saw Chelsea reapply for a permit, with Vitesse having confirmed his parent club had always intended to bring him back to England. “Jose Mourinho is crazy about him. If the opportunity is there, they’d prefer to take him back,” said the Vitesse manager Peter Bosz. That application has now been successful. Burkina Faso were ranked 66th in the world as of 4 June with Traore, who made his debut at international level at 15, having featured in more than 75% of their senior competitive matches when available over the last two years. The FA’s new points-based guidelines for work permit applications, announced by Greg Dyke in March, came into effect on 1 May. While there may initially have been fears Traore would struggle to qualify under the more stringent criteria, given that eligible-ranked nations have been reduced from the top 70 to the top 50, with new appearance requirements depending on the status of the nation, the player had still accrued enough points to qualify. Chelsea will include Traore in the squad travelling to the US on 15 July for games against New York Red Bulls, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona, with Mourinho hopeful the forward demonstrates similar form to that which illuminated the tour of the Far East two years ago. Chelsea, who will confirm the loan arrival of Radamel Falcao after the Copa America, may yet be without Loic Remy next season and while further additions are anticipated in the transfer window, Traore would offer versatility up front.

Parma have been relegated to Serie D after the club failed in their bid to find a buyer who could relieve them of their debt. “The administrators of Parma FC, Dr Angelo Anedda and Dr Alberto Guion, communicated that as of 14.00 today, June 22 2015, no offers have been received for the sporting rights of the club,” said a statement on the club’s website. “In the coming hours the administrators will meet with the creditor’s committee and the bankruptcy judge Dr Pietro Rogato to make the necessary arrangements for the bankruptcy proceedings.” One potential owner reportedly withdrew from the bidding process on Sunday while another did the same on Monday. A bid from the former All-Star and New York Mets baseball catcher Mike Piazza never materialised. The Ducali were relegated after finishing bottom of Serie A last season and were declared bankrupt by an Italian court in March. They have never won a Serie A title but during the 1990s they won two Uefa Cups and a Cup Winners’ Cup and finished second to Juventus in the league in 1997.

Tottenham have completed the signing of Burnley defender Kieran Trippier on a five-year contract. The 24-year-old right back, who had a £3.5million release clause, leaves Turf Moor after four years. Trippier only signed a new three-year contract with Burnley following their promotion to the Premier League a year ago but written into that deal was an agreement for him be allowed to move on should they be relegated, which subsequently happened.

Wolfsburg star Kevin De Bruyne is the best attacking midfielder in the Bundesliga but is yet to prove he is a world-class player, so says former Germany and Borussia Dortmund ace Andreas Moller. De Bruyne's profile has soared after scoring 15 goals and providing 25 assists in all competitions this past season for the Bundesliga runners-up. Moller, however, feels the Belgium international must shine on a larger stage before being regarded among the sport's elite. "To be considered world class, De Bruyne must first leave his mark at top international level, in a competition like the Champions League," Moller, who won the continental competition in 1997, said. "Still, he is the best attacking midfielder in the Bundesliga, the No.1 based on the form he showed in the last six months. He has outstanding skills, scores goals and assists many more." German champions Bayern Munich, French counterparts Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are all reportedly eyeing the 23-year-old.

Argentine great Diego Maradona plans to run for the Fifa presidency. Maradona has been a long-time critic of Fifa under Sepp Blatter's reign, with the ex-Napoli attacker feeling vindicated by the corruption scandal surrounding the world footballing body. Blatter has resigned from the presidency but remains in the post until a new election is held, which is expected in December or early next year. And Maradona harbours ambitions of taking on the job, so says Victor Hugo Morales, who co-hosted a television programme with the 54-year-old during last year's World Cup finals. "He told me he was going to run for president of Fifa and authorised me to inform," tweeted Morales. "'I am a candidate' were the words Diego Maradona used to answer me when I consulted him about the nomination for the presidency of Fifa." Former Brazil star Zico and Liberia Football Association chief Musa Bility recently declared their interest in succeeding Blatter.

Neymar’s Copa America is officially over after the Brazilian Football Federation decided not to appeal against his four-match ban. The Selecao skipper was shown red in last week’s 1-0 loss to Colombia where he kicked a ball on Pablo Armero and attempted to headbutt goal-scorer Jeison Murillo before verbally assaulting referee Enrique Osses. The Barcelona star was given a four-match ban for his antics, with Brazil initially saying they would appeal, yet after a meeting between the player and coaching staff on Sunday night, the national federation have opted not to continue their pursuit to lessen the punishment. Brazil will face Paraguay in their quarter-final match-up on Saturday evening.

Inter Milan have agreed a deal to sign Geoffrey Kondogbia from Monaco for a fee thought to be in the region of €35 million. Kondogbia will pen a five-year contract with the Serie A outfit provided he passes a medical in the Italian capital on Monday. The French midfielder was initially expected to join Inter's fierce rivals AC Milan, but snubbed their interest at the eleventh hour. The 22-year-old spent two seasons with Monaco, netting three goals in 33 games in all competitions last term.

Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen expects Ajax Amsterdam to put up a fight should Manchester United bid for his services. United manager Louis van Gaal is reportedly targeting Cillessen as a possible replacement for David de Gea, who has been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid. Cillessen, however, told The Daily Mirror: "The Ajax management are going to make it really difficult when the interest becomes concrete. If I had planned to leave, I would not have signed a new contract until 2018. My old contract was expiring in the summer of 2016 and in that case this summer would have been the perfect moment to leave. [Ajax coach] Frank de Boer has been very clear when he received questions about my transfer - he wants to block it." The 26-year-old worked under former Netherlands boss Van Gaal at the 2014 World Cup.

Fiorentina unveiled their new coach Paulo Sousa on Monday. The former QPR, Swansea and Leicester City boss left Basle on Wednesday after claiming League honours in his only season with the Swiss giants. Sousa, 44, replaces Vincenzo Montella, who guided the Serie A club to a fourth-place finish this past season but was sacked after criticising the team's fans. The Portuguese represented Juventus and Borussia Dortmund during his playing days.

Former Selecao star Ronaldinho has rescinded his contract with Mexican club Queretaro, with a move to Turkey on the horizon. The former PSG, Barcelona and AC Milan playmaker joined Queretaro in September last year, scoring eight goals in 27 matches in all competitions, yet has decided to end his relationship with the Mexican side. Ronaldinho took to social media to thank the Mexican fans for the nine months spent in their country. "I want to heartily thank the entire Mexican nation," he tweeted. "Every day I lived with very special people." A move to Turkey now beckons for the 2005 Ballon d’Or winner, with newly-promoted Turkish Super League club Antalyaspor revealing their interest in the Brazilian. Should he join, the 2002 World Cup winner, now 35, will return to Europe for the first time since 2011, when he left AC Milan to join Brazilian side Flamengo, followed by stints at Atletico Mineiro and then Queretaro.

Caf president and Fifa vice president Issa Hayatou has confirmed that that African football governing body received $1.8 million from Qatar during their 2022 World Cup bidding process. The payment allowed Qatar to present their bid for the 2022 World Cup at a congress held in the Angolan capital Luanda in January 2010. Later that year, the Asian nation won the rights to host the 2022 showpiece following a controversial Fifa vote, which is now under investigation. Hayatou confirmed to French publication Jeune Afrique that Caf had received the money from Qatar before their presentation. “It was $1.8 million, not one million. Paid in two times $900,000,” the controversial Caf chief said. “The Qataris gave it to us to be able to show their plan (for the 2022 World Cup) during the congress.” Hayatou added that other candidates USA and Australia did not pay to present their bids.

Joel Campbell has called Arsene Wenger to tell the Arsenal manager he wants to move to Real Sociedad this summer, reports in Spain claim. The Costa Rica international has failed to establish himself at the Emirates Stadium since his arrival in 2011. The 22-year-old versatile forward spent three seasons on loan at Lorient, Real Betis and Olympiakos before returning to the north London club in the summer of 2014 following an impressive World Cup campaign with his national team. But after being exiled by Wenger during the first part of the 2014-15 season, the French manager once again sent him on loan to Villarreal as part of the deal that saw Gabriel Paulista join the Gunners during the January transfer window. According to Spanish newspaper AS, the Costa Rica international has given up on his dream to play for the Premier League giants and recently called Wenger to make his move to Real Sociedad happen this summer after the club's sporting director met with his agent earlier in June. The Spanish publication claimed Campbell told Wenger of his intention to leave although the deal will not be easy as Arsenal are not ready to sell him on the cheap – while David Moyes's side cannot afford a lucrative deal either. The former Manchester United manager tried to secure Campbell's services during the January transfer window and the club sporting director, Loren, had already confirmed earlier last week they will renew their attempt this summer.

Champions League runners up Juventus have sealed their third signing of the season after finalising a deal for Atletico Madrid striker Mario Mandzukic. The Croatian forward, who underwent his medical in Turin on Monday, scored a respectable 20 goals in 43 matches for his La Liga club in the 2014/15 campaign, and has been brought in by the Bianconeri to replace the out-going Carlos Tevez, who looks set for a return to Argentine club Boca Juniors. “Juventus Football Club can announce that an agreement has been reached with Atletico Madrid for the services of Mario Mandzukic, who has signed a four-year contract,” a statement read on the club’s website. “A fee of €19 million, payable in three separate instalments, has been agreed, with a potential extra €2 million to be added on if certain performance-related targets are met.” Juve paid the Spanish club three million euros less than they paid for the striker at the same time last year, when he joined from German giants Bayern Munich. Mandzukic joins Palermo’s Paulo Dybala and Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira as the Old Lady’s new recruits for next season.

Danish forward Nicklas Bendtner insists he will remain with German runners-up VfL Wolfsburg, believing that he is at “the right club”. The 27-year-old endured an inconsistent spell at Arsenal as he was loaned out to Birmingham, Sunderland and Juventus, before joining Bundesliga club Wolfsburg last year. He netted just once in 18 matches as the club claimed second spot in the German standings, however he still feels it was a “fantastic season” and is determined to stay in Germany next season. Bendtner was dropped from the squad in April by coach Dieter Hecking after arriving late for training, but insists there is no tension between himself and the coach.

Manchester City are set to test Arsenal’s resolve with a £30 million move for midfielder Jack Wilshere. With Frank Lampard, Scott Sinclair and James Milner all leaving the Etihad this summer, City are looking to add English talent to bolster their home-grown player quota. And after raising eyebrows with a £40 million bid for Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling, the powers-that-be at City are now targeting Wilshere, who struggled for game-time at the Emirates last season due to a combination of injury and intense midfield competition.

Wilshere has been fined €56,000 by the English FA for his foul-mouthed Tottenham chants during the Gunners' FA Cup celebrations. Wilshere was sanctioned for leading Arsenal fans in a series of explicit chants about their fierce rivals during the club's FA Cup trophy parade earlier this month. The 23-year-old chanted "What do we think of Tottenham?", prompting thousands of Gunners fans to reply: "S**t". He also addressed the crowd with a rendition of "We hate Tottenham". Wilshere apologised on Twitter after the incident but this did not stop the FA from charging him with misconduct. The England international later pleaded guilty and was fined, but avoided a suspension.

Tottenham are lining up a bid to bring Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Yohan Cabaye back to the Premier League this summer. The former Newcastle United man struggled to nail down a starting spot in Laurent Blanc’s side last season, and had been linked with a reunion with former boss Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace. But Spurs have stolen a march on the Eagles, and have the benefit of European football to offer the France international.

Aston Villa have signed departing Manchester City defender Micah Richards on a four-year
contract. Richards will switch alliances on a free transfer once his contract with City expires at the end of the month. The 26-year-old, who has 13 caps for England, spent last season on loan at Serie A outfit Fiorentina. Villa manager Tim Sherwood is confident Richards will add value to his side.

Reports in Italy suggest Juventus striker Carlos Tevez is on his way out of Turin, having agreed a three-year deal with former Argentine club Boca Juniors. The former West Ham, Manchester United and Manchester City forward has been the Bianconeri’s top goal-scorer for the past two seasons, yet despite a year left on his contract, has constantly talked about his wish to return to boyhood team Boca, the club he joined as a youth at the age of 13. Boca president Daniel Angelici flew to Chile to meet Tevez and his representatives while on Copa America duty with his national team, with Italian publication Mediaset reporting that a deal to re-unite with the Argentine club has been agreed. It is reported that Tevez himself has asked his Italian employers to allow him to return to his home country. Juve have demanded a €5 million fee to allow their prized asset to leave a year before the end of his contract, with the Italian champions wanting an answer by the end of the week.

Next season’s Premier League fixtures were revealed on Wednesday, with reigning champions Chelsea starting off their campaign at home to Welsh opponents Swansea City. In the biggest opening-day match-up, Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United host London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in what is always a fiery encounter at Old Trafford. Last season’s champions Manchester City travel to West Brom, Liverpool take on Stoke while Arsenal host West Ham in an early London Derby. Tokelo Rantie’s newly-promoted AFC Bournemouth take on Aston Villa in their first ever match in the Premier League. The season’s first Manchester Derby will take place at Old Trafford on Saturday, 24 October while the first Merseyside Derby will see Everton host Liverpool on 3 October. The season will commence a week earlier than usual to finish earlier ahead of next year’s Euro 2016 championships, set to start on 10 June. The season will begin on Saturday, 8 August 2015, with the last fixtures scheduled for Sunday, 15 May 2016.

All opening EPL fixtures (Saturday, 8 August):
Arsenal v West Ham
Bournemouth v Aston Villa
Chelsea v Swansea
Everton v Watford
Leicester v Sunderland
Man Utd v Tottenham
Newcastle v Southampton
Norwich v Crystal Palace
Stoke v Liverpool
West Brom v Man City

Chuck Blazer, the man who snitched on Sepp Blatter and Fifa, had been working undercover for 18 months while still a member of the Fifa executive committee, it has been revealed. The 70-year-old American, who is seriously ill with cancer, agreed to turn witness to avoid a long jail term, and now his evidence threatens to bring Blatter’s global empire crumbling to the ground. Blazer has admitted, among other misdemeanours, to taking bribes to vote for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup. As a member of the Fifa executive since 1997, chubby Chuck had been living the original fat-cat life. He met with royalty (stealing glassware from Queen Elizabeth to show his mates), flew in a private jet with Nelson Mandela, befriended Vladimir Putin (who told him he looks like Karl Mark), and used soccer funds to pay for an exclusive apartment in New York’s Trump Towers. That sort of lifestyle does not go unnoticed forever – although he got away with it for a good many years before the US taxman caught up with him. After the bust, Blazer pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, tax fraud and money laundering. Faced with being found guilty of offences that carry a maximum 75-year jail term, Blazer agreed to work for the FBI. He also undertook to pay US$11-million (R130-million) in taxes owed. Blazer's plea agreement, now made public following as the FBI investigation into Fifa corruption gears up, reveals that he agreed to work undercover as long ago as December 2011. Last Year, The New York Daily News reported that Blazer bugged meetings with various executive members at the London Olympics in 2012, wearing a wire concealed in a key fob. Blazer remained on the Fifa executive until 2013, long enough it would appear, to gather some seriously damaging evidence against Blatter and his minions. Blazer has also sold out his former close ally – and the one man who is probably even more corrupt than he is – Jack Warner, boss of Concacaf and until recently, a Fifa vice-president. Blazer alleges that Warner took bribes from both South Africa and Morocco in connection with the 2010 hosting rights. co-operation with the authorities can be taken into account, but does not guarantee he will walk free. So at the end of it all, overweight, dying of cancer, and without friends, Blazer may yet spend his last days in an American jail.

AC Milan have appointed former Serbia boss Sinisa Mihajlovic as their new coach after sacking Filippo Inzaghi. Former Yugoslavia defender Mihajlovic, 46, has signed a two-year deal after leaving Sampdoria earlier this month. Inzaghi, 41, who played for Milan from 2001 until his retirement in 2012, replaced former team-mate Clarence Seedorf as Milan coach last June. Milan finished in 10th place in Serie A, 35 points behind champions Juventus, after only 13 wins in 2014-15. Mihajlovic played for Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter Milan during a 20-year senior career in which he won 63 international caps. Having retired while at Inter, he began his coaching career there as assistant to Roberto Mancini. He had brief spells in charge at Bologna, Catania and Fiorentina before he was appointed coach of Serbia in April 2012, winning seven and losing eight of his 19 matches in charge. Mihajlovic joined Sampdoria in November 2013 and took them to 12th place that season, improving to seventh place last term. Inzaghi, meanwhile, became Milan youth-team coach after retiring as a player before succeeding Seedorf, who only lasted five months in the role. AC Milan have won 18 Serie A titles and seven European Cups.