International News - Issue 266

Barca Win Race To Sign Turan
Spanish giants Barcelona have confirmed the signing of attacking midfielder Arda Turan from rivals Atletico Madrid. The Turkey international had already stated he would not be extending his contract with the 2013/14 La Liga winners, as last season’s treble winners confirmed the new addition to their star-studded squad for a reported fee of €34m, with €7m to come by way of add-ons. “OFFICIAL- FC Barcelona announce the signing of Arda Turan. Welcome Arda!” read a statement released by the club on Twitter. The 28-year-old has spent the last four years at Atletico, scoring 22 goals and providing 32 assists in 177 games. Turan – who has 81 caps for Turkey – will only be allowed to play for the Catalans as of January next year, as the Blaugrana serve out their transfer ban.

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has ruled out signing Juventus star Paul Pogba in 2015. The treble winners had a €80 million bid for the 22-year rejected last week. "We will not buy Pogba this year," Bartomeu said. “We are not planning with him for next season. He is not part of our sporting plans for 2015-16 at this stage.” Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United are also thought to be interested in Pogba, who is under contract in Turin until 2019. The France international has won three consecutive league titles with Juve since his arrival in 2012 on a free transfer from United.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas is keen on a move to Portuguese outfit FC Porto. The 34-year-old has spent 15 trophy-laden years at the Santiago Bernabeu since his first team debut in the 1999/2000 season, yet is keeping his options open with Madrid’s growing interest in Manchester United shot-stopper David De Gea. And the agent of the Spanish international has revealed that his client is closely considering a move to Portuguese powerhouse Porto. "Casillas is pretty excited about the opportunity to join Porto. We hope Real Madrid will allow him to move on and give him an easy exit." In just over 700 appearances for Los Blancos, Casillas has won five La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey trophies, three Champions Leagues crowns , two Uefa Super Cups, the Fifa Club World Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. His contract with the Galacticos is set to expire in June 2017.

Italian giants AC Milan have chosen not to keep Ghanaian midfielder Sully Muntari at the San Siro next season. The 30-year-old, who has spent the last three seasons with the Rossoneri, featured in just 17 matches in all competitions last season, and after falling out of the team, has now parted ways with the club via mutual consent. The well-travelled Ghanaian has featured for Milan’s Italian rivals Inter Milan and Udinese in the past, while also playing his trade with Portsmouth and Sunderland.

Journeyman Nicolas Anelka has been named as the new player-manager of Indian Super League team Mumbai City. The Frenchman, who has featured for 13 different clubs in his career including Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Real Madrid, will continue in India as a player while helping in a coaching role as well, similar to what he did at Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua in 2012.  The 36-year-old scored two goals for Mumbai last season as the side could only manage a seventh-place finish in the inaugural eight-team ISL, yet is looking forward to his new player-manager role.  The ISL will start on 3 October this year, with the final set for 20 December.

Premier League champions Chelsea have officially announced a one-year loan deal for Monaco striker Radamel Falcao.  “Chelsea Football Club is delighted to announce we have agreed terms with Monaco for the season-long loan of Radamel Falcao,” read a statement on Chelsea’s official website. The Colombian captain spent last season on loan at Manchester United, managing just four goals in 26 appearances for the Red Devils. Falcao seems to have been brought in as a back-up for regular forward Diego Costa following the departure of veteran Didier Drogba, with Loic Remy another forward at Chelsea’s disposal. The 29-year-old, who has previously turned out for River plate, Porto and Atletico Madrid, has scored 195 goals in 322 appearances across all competitions for his various clubs. Falcao joins former Atletico team-mates Thibaut Courtois, Filipe Luis and Diego Costa, as well as international colleague Juan Cuadrado at Stamford Bridge. 

Inter Milan have confirmed the signing of FC Barcelona right-back Martin Montoya on a season-long loan, with an option for a further year. The Italian side have snapped up another new addition to their ever-growing squad ahead of the new season. Coach Roberto Mancini has already brought in Geoffrey Kondogbia, Miranda and Jeison Murillo in the close-season, with Montoya now added to the list. FC Barcelona have confirmed the move on the club's official website, detailing that the loan deal is for one season with an option for a further 12 months should the Spanish international make a certain number of appearances. The 24-year-old's move away from the Camp Nou comes following the contract extension of Brazilian right-back Dani Alves for a further two years, as well as the signing of Alex Vidal from Sevilla.

AC Milan have confirmed the signing of striker Carlos Bacca from Sevilla. The Colombian, who was also linked with Roma and Liverpool, will complete the switch pending a successful medical in the Italian capital. Both Milan and Europa League holders Sevilla confirmed the prospective deal last Thursday. While neither club disclosed a transfer fee, speculative reports suggest the Rossoneri paid €30 million for Bacca. The 28-year-old scored 34 goals in 71 appearances for Sevillistas since his arrival from Club Brugge in 2013.

AC Milan have been busy in the current transfer window, securing their third major signing following the arrival of striker Luiz Adriano from Shakhtar Donetsk. “AC Milan would like to announce the signing of Luiz Adriano on a permanent transfer from F.C. Shakhtar Donetsk,” read a statement on the club’s official website. “The player has signed a contract that will tie him at the club until June 30, 2020 and he will join up with the rest of the squad in the coming days.” Adriano’s contract in Ukraine was set to expire at the end of the year, with the club receiving a reported €8 million for his switch to Italy. The 28-year-old Brazilian has spent the last eight years in Ukraine, scoring 128 goals in 265 appearances as he helped his side win six League titles, three domestic Cup competitions and the 2009/09 Europa League. Adriano has been given the number nine shirt to wear for the Rossoneri, who are looking to rebuild following their tenth place League finish last season. The club earlier this week confirmed the signings of Italian midfielder Andrea Bertolacci as well as Colombian and Sevilla forward Carlos Bacca.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has insisted he is not guilty of any wrong-doing, believing that he is "going to heaven one day”. The 79-year-old stepped down as leader of world football’s governing body last month following investigations into various corruption allegations, yet Blatter is insistent that none of those pertain to him. "Anybody who calls me corrupt because Fifa is corrupt, I can only shake my head," he said. "Everybody who says something like that should go to jail," he added. Blatter then revealed that he is a religious person, using his beliefs to get him through difficult times, and feels he is “going to heaven one day”. "My faith has given me strength during the last week. I am a religious person and pray, too. I own a golden cross that has been blessed by Pope Francis," said Blatter. "I believe I will go to heaven one day. But I believe there is no hell. I disagree with the Pope on that."

Serie A club Inter Milan have completed the signing of Brazil international defender Miranda from Spanish La Liga side Atletico Madrid. The 30-year-old, who was part of the Brazil team that got knocked out of the Copa America currently being played in Chile, has joined the Nerazzurri in a deal worth a reported £10.6-million. Miranda helped Atletico win the 2013/14 La Liga title and reach the 2014 Champions League final during four years in Spain. He also won the Copa del Rey and the Europa League. “Miranda is another great addition to Roberto Mancini's squad for our new Inter," club president Erick Thohir, an Indonesian businessman who owns a majority stake, told the club's official website. “He is an experienced player who is as eager as we are to get started on our new adventure. The new season is just around the corner and this will be an exciting moment for us and for the fans. Forza Inter!”

Roma attacker Gervinho has denied he requested a helicopter and a private beach as part of his proposed move to Al-Jazira. Gervinho was rumoured to have made the extravagant demands, but he insists there is no substance to such talk. The Ivory Coast international told France Football: "I read of helicopters, private beaches and plane tickets. I have no idea where that information comes from, but I have never demanded such things. "When I sign a contract I don't care about those things: everything that has been said about me is false." Al-Jazira added: "We confirm that we stopped negotiating with Gervinho but this was purely because of technical details and not because of the player's demands, as reported by some online sources."

Meanwhile, Roma have signed Iago Falque on a one-year loan deal from Genoa with a view to making the move permanent. The Eternal City outfit have paid an initial fee of €1m for the 25-year-old Spaniard which could rise to €9m. Falque netted 13 goals in 32 games in Serie A last season.

Fenerbahce have completed the signing of Nani from Manchester United. The Turkish giants announced the deal on Monday after the winger underwent a medical in Istanbul. The 28-year-old penned a five-year contract at Old Trafford in 2013, but spent last season on loan at Sporting Lisbon, scoring 12 goals in 37 matches. Nani played almost 150 games for United, while he has 86 caps for Portugal.

Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola has "destroyed" Mario Gotze, according to the midfielder's agent Volker Struth. Gotze, who scored the winner for Germany in the 2014 World Cup Final, netted 15 goals and provided seven assists in 48 outings for the Bundesliga champions last season. Struth, however, is unhappy with his client's progress under Guardiola. "Guardiola has destroyed Gotze. He feels like the coach doesn't have faith in him and yet still he is asked to be decisive when he gets on the pitch," Struth told Bild. "I'm surprised that Guardiola didn't use Gotze in important matches like the German Cup and Champions League semi-finals. He only plays in the easy games. I wonder why no-one at the club has realised that and defended Mario. Bayern need a figure like former president Uli Hoeness again." Gotze joined the Bavarians from Dortmund for €37 million in 2013.

Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has revealed how critics believed he was too skinny to make the grade as a professional footballer. The Portuguese star enjoyed his most prolific season this past campaign, netting 61 goals in 54 appearances in all competitions for Los Blancos, yet reveals how he had to prove his doubters wrong by putting in the extra hours in the gym. "You have to work so hard," the forward said in a promotional video. "I do this every day. This is why I have been at the top level for many, many years. It's not a coincidence. I do so much extra work outside of the pitch. When I was younger most people told me: 'Cristiano, you are a very talented player but you are too skinny.' So I put it in my mind that my body can improve. With dedication and hard work in the gym I improved a lot on that - at the end of the day it's down to the person's mindset.” Ronaldo believes that keeping in good shape has contributed a lot to his success, as he aims to maintain his strong build. "Athleticism also means a huge amount - these small details make a huge difference,” he said. “So it's very important to do this work and it's going really well for me. That's why I'm always in good shape all year round. I do that kind of work because I have to, it's part of me."

Asmir Begovic is set to sign for Chelsea this week despite late interest from Manchester United. Following the departure of Petr Cech to Arsenal last week, the Blues needed a back-up for Thibaut Courtois and have swiftly moved for the Bosnian. The report claims Chelsea will pay £8m for Begovic with winger Victor Moses or striker Patrick Bamford going to the Britannia on loan. Moses spent last season at Stoke and made 19 appearances before suffering a hamstring injury, which ruled him out for the rest of the season. While Bamford led the line for Middlesbrough last season, scoring 19 goals, as they reached the Championship play-off final but missed out on promotion after losing to Norwich. Man United’s interest stems from concerns over David De Gea, who has been heavily linked with Real Madrid.

Former Brazil and Real Madrid star Roberto Carlos has been appointed coach of Indian Super League side Delhi Dynamos. The 42-year-old, who has previously managed Anzhi Makhachkala, Sivasspor and Akhisar Belediyespor, replaces Harm van Veldhoven at the club. Delhi finished fifth in the standings last term, with the new season kicking off in October.

Fiji set a Pacific Games record with a 38-0 walloping of Federated States of Micronesia on Sunday. Atonio Tuivuna cashed in with 10 goals in the match, helping his country in their bid to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics. Micronesia, who lost 30-0 to Tahiti two days earlier in the Oceania Football Confederation tournament, are ineligible for the Olympics as they are not affiliated to the International Olympic Committee. The biggest victory for a Fifa-recognised match is Australia's 31-0 thrashing of American Samoa in a qualifier for the 2002 World Cup.

Steven Gerrard is itching to get started at his new MLS club LA Galaxy following his official presentation on Saturday. The former Liverpool stalwart was unveiled as Galaxy’s new player at half-time of his side’s 4-0 League victory against Toronto FC in front of a capacity home crowd. "I just wish I could play tonight. The first game can't come quick enough," the 35-year-old said. "I'm really looking forward to a successful future." Gerrard went on to thank his new teammates for helping him settle in at his club. "Already I'm starting to feel settled and I'm looking forward to playing with the guys," he said. "We've already got a good team here, full of wonderful players - so if I can add a little bit to that, I think the future's going to be good." The English midfielder is expected to make his MLS debut in Galaxy's California Clasico against San Jose Earthquakes on 17 July, with his side third in the Western Conference of the MLS League, a point behind leaders Seattle Sounders who have played two matches more.

Nigeria have sacked Stephen Keshi, ending the unsettled relationship between the federation and the head coach. The 53-year-old, who only three months ago signed a two-year contract with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), has been relieved of his duties for “lack of commitment” after allegedly applying for the vacant Ivory Coast head coach job. "Having thoroughly reviewed the reports/findings of the NFF Disciplinary Committee and NFF Technical and Development Committee, as well as having reviewed the actions and inactions of Mr. Stephen Keshi, in the performance of his duties as Super Eagles' head coach, which we found to lack the required commitment to achieve the Federation's objectives as set out in the coach's employment contract,” read a statement on the NFF's official website. “To this end, the Nigeria Football Federation has decided to exercise its option to summarily terminate the employment contract of Mr. Stephen Keshi with the Federation with immediate effect." Keshi was first appointed as Nigeria coach in 2011 before resigning two years later, but then reversed his decision as he continued until the 2014 World Cup. He was replaced by Shaibu Amodu in October last year, but then re-instated two weeks later, yet after failing to take Nigeria to Afcon 2015, was replaced by interim coach Daniel Amokachi, before being handed another chance, signing a two-year deal this April. Following his most recent dismissal, the NFF announced that assistant coach Salisu Yusuf will take charge until a new head coach is named.

Manchester United have agreed a fee with Torino for Italy international right-back Matteo Darmian, according to Sky Italia sources. Talks between the clubs have been ongoing and, after rejecting United's first two bids, Torino have agreed to sell their prized defender for £12.7million (€18m). Darmian is a versatile defender who is capable of playing in either full-back spot, though his favoured position is on the right, but also has experience at centre-half and at 6ft tall offers a strong aerial presence.  Louis van Gaal was acutely aware of United's vulnerability at set-pieces last season and it cost the team on more than one occasion, including in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea in October, when 5ft 7in Rafael was left marking Didier Drogba at a corner with costly results. Speaking in November, van Gaal said: "In set plays, it is very difficult but that is because of the height of the team - maybe you can advise me to buy tall players." United have made upgrading their right-back position a priority this summer after Antonio Valencia - who has spent the majority of his career in midfield - was forced to assume the role last season. Brazilian right-back Rafael featured just 11 times for United last season after struggling with injury and subsequently falling out of favour with van Gaal.

Robin van Persie is set to leave Manchester United for Fenerbahce after agreeing terms with the Turkish club, according to reports. The 31-year-old’s contributions at United have dropped over the last two seasons, partly due to injuries, and it now appears an exit is close. The Dutchman was understood to have only been keen on leaving Manchester if the move was right for his family, and the UK Guardian reports that his wife has warmed to the idea after spending the last week in Istanbul. The two clubs are still negotiating a transfer fee and if an agreement is reached, the striker will reportedly sign a four-year deal. Van Persie joined the Red Devils from Arsenal for £24-million in 2012 and scored 28 goals to fire United to the Premier League title in Sir Alex Ferguson's last season in charge.

Galatasaray have completed the signing of German international forward Lukas Podolski from Arsenal on a three-year deal. The Super Lig champions will pay Arsenal just under £1.8m up-front and then £2.1m per season for three years thereafter. The club also has an option for a further year. Podolski decided to leave the Gunners after falling down the pecking order at Emirates Stadium. He was warned by Germany manager Joachim Low that he needed to find regular football before Euro 2016. The 30-year-old signed for Arsenal from Cologne in 2012 and made over 80 appearances, scoring 31 goals in all competitions. He spent the second half of last season on loan at Inter Milan, making 17 appearances.

Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich have confirmed that they have signed Brazilian midfielder, Douglas Costa, for a fee of £21 million from Shakhtar Donetsk. The 24-year-old was part of Brazil’s Copa America squad in Chile and has now penned a five-year deal with the Bavarian giants. Bayern’s sporting director, Matthias Sammer, said he was delighted that the club has signed Costa and believes he will be a good fit for the team. "Douglas Costa will be good for our team," said Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer. "He has great technical ability, a powerful left foot, he is very agile and extremely quick." The Brazilian was over the moon at the unveiling and even described the move as a dream come true. Costa scored 29 goals in 149 league games for Shakhtar, where he won five league titles.

A video which appears to show Copa America tournament organisers removing the Best Player award from the stage at the final has appeared online, amid rumours that Lionel Messi refused to accept it after his Argentina side lost 5-4 on penalties. The footage shows the Best Player trophy being taken away from the winners' podium immediately after Ever Banega punted his penalty over the bar, condemning Argentina to more tournament failure. Messi was brilliant throughout the tournament, producing one of his best ever displays in the semi-final thrashing against Paraguay and controlling games on his way to the final despite only netting one goal. A similar situation unfolded at the Brazil World Cup, when having just lost the biggest game in football after single handedly dragging Argentina to the final, Messi was forced to parade his Golden Ball trophy next to a beaming Manuel Neuer, who clutched the alchemised body of Thing.  After that World Cup final, Messi said: “Right now I do not care nothing, not about my prize, nothing. I just wanted to lift the cup and bring it to Argentina. The pain is very great." Famously disconsolate when he loses, Messi appeared to abandon hope of winning the Copa America the very second Banega's penalty flew over the bar. As his teammates followed the ball's path into orbit, Messi turned around, head sunken, as though he knew exactly what was about to happen. Again, he was one step ahead of everybody else in the stadium.

Peru beat Paraguay 2-0 to claim third place at the Copa America tournament being played in Chile.  Jefferson Farfan dropping to the bench was the only change to Peru’s first team, while Paraguay made seven changes from their semi-loss to Argentina. Andre Carrillo opened the scoring for Peru three minutes into the second half with a volley from close range. Jose Paolo Guerrero ensured the result for Peru in the 89th minute when he finished from close range.

New York City FC have announced the signing of Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo on a reported record-breaking $8-million annual salary. The 36-year-old will join the club on July 21 and will be available for selection immediately joining the club’s two other Designated Players – David Villa and Frank Lampard. Pirlo’s reported salary makes him the highest-paid MLS player ever. “I have been wanting this experience for a long time and now that the opportunity materialised I wanted to take it,” Pirlo told the club’s official website. “This is a club on the rise and shares my same hunger to achieve important results in the League. I am hoping to win. I had several opportunities to play outside of Italy, but I never had a doubt in picking New York for the enthusiasm of the people that come watch the team. I met with the coach, Jason Kreis, and he gave me a fantastic impression of the club. He has well defined ideas in mind, and I am sure we will get on well and create a good relationship to train well and try to win together.”

Liverpool have confirmed the appointment of Sean O'Driscoll as the club's new assistant manager. The former Doncaster Rovers boss has come to an agreement with The FA to leave his role as England under-19 coach, and replaces Colin Pascoe as Brendan Rodgers' number two. And Rodgers is delighted to have secured the services of such a highly-regarded coach. "I have made these appointments because I want to take us in a new technical direction, in terms of coaching," he told the club's official website. "I believe the entire first-team set-up will benefit and I am extremely positive and excited about what we can achieve, as a group, going forward. My admiration for Sean, as a professional, is well documented. He is someone with a clear vision and philosophy and has proved he has the ability to transfer that knowledge, through his coaching, to the players. I am looking forward to working with him and also learning from his experiences and gaining valuable knowledge from his expertise." Academy coach Pepijn Lijnders will also be stepping up to join the first-team backroom staff but academy director Alex Inglethorpe, linked to the role, has no desire to leave his current post and will remain in charge of the club's youth ranks. Former Liverpool assistant Pako Ayestaran and ex-Reds defender Sami Hyypia were both candidates to replace Pascoe but were overlooked in favour of O'Driscoll. Hyypia may be given an opportunity to return at Anfield as a replacement for departed first-team coach Mike Marsh, but is understood to prefer a more senior position or return to management elsewhere.