International News - Issue 268

Benteke Set For Liverpool Move

Liverpool and Aston Villa have reached an agreement over the transfer of striker Christian Benteke. Liverpool met the £32.5m release fee clause last Thursday in Benteke's contract and the two Premier League clubs have been in talks over the weekend over the finer details of the Belgium international's transfer. The 24-year-old is expected to have his medical with the Reds by Tuesday morning but the deal will not be done in time to allow him to join the club on their pre-season tour. The Liverpool squad beat the Thai All-Stars side in Bangkok and are now in Australia where they won 2-1 against Brisbane Roar and 2-0 against Adelaide United. They face Malaysia XI in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. Manager Brendan Rodgers will be acquiring a player who has a stunning record against Liverpool with Benteke scoring five times against them in their last six encounters. Benteke, who has two years remaining on his Villa contract, has scored 49 goals in 101 appearances for the club since he joined from Genk in 2012. Tim Sherwood said last week he was determined to keep Benteke but admitted the club were powerless if a bid of £32.5m was received. Rodgers made Benteke his primary summer target to strengthen his forward line but, after initially refusing to meet the buy-out clause, the sale of Raheem Sterling to Manchester City in a £49m deal has prompted a shift in thinking. Rodgers desperately needs a striker who can stand up to the rigours of the Premier League, particularly considering the ongoing injury concerns over England international Daniel Sturridge. Liverpool have already bought six new players, including England right-back Nathaniel Clyne at a cost of £12.5m, and Benteke's arrival would push their summer spending to around £80m.

Experienced manager Michel Dussuyer has been named the new coach of African giants Ivory Coast. The Ivorian Football Federation (FIF) made the announcement on Monday, as Dussuyer signed a two-year deal, with an option to extend. The 56-year-old edged competition including Frenchman Frederic Antonetti, and the Henryk Kasperczak - who was last week named as the new Tunisia coach – to take charge of the reigning African champions, having worked as an assistant to Henri Michel with the Elephants’ in 2006. Dussuyer is well-known in African football circles, having led Guinea in the 2004, 2012 and 2015 AFCON finals, as well as Benin in the 2010 tournament. Duessuyer, who led Guinea to the quarter-finals of this year’s continental showpiece, replaces Frenchman Renard in charge of the Ivory Coast, with Renard quitting to take over the helm at Ligue 1 side Lille.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter had to stop his press conference on Monday following a comical scene caused by British comedian Simon Brodkin. Blatter had called the press conference following the organisation’s announcement that elections for the new FIFA president will be held in February next year, yet was interrupted by Brodkin, who had snuck into the press conference and began throwing fake banknotes at the president, who stepped down from his post two months ago following the on-going FBI investigations into corruption. Security was then called to remove the comedian from the room as Blatter walked out, only to return a few minutes later after the banknotes had been cleared away. Blatter then confirmed he would not be running for the president in next year’s elections, before revealing his wish for a future career in journalism. “I will not be a candidate for election in 2016,” he said, before announcing that he would like to become a radio journalist. I think radio is the most popular form of information. There's so many radios stations, someone will have me.” The candidates for the world governing body’s head position have yet to be confirmed.
Josep Maria Bartomeu has easily won Barcelona’s presidential election and will resume the role for the next six years. Bartomeu was the clear winner with a majority 54.63 percent of the votes to beat rivals Joan Laporta (33.03 percent), Agusti Benedito (7.16) and Toni Freixa (3.70). Barcelona are owned by more than 150 000 members – who elect the president – and 47 720 cast votes. The 52-year-old Bartomeu took over the presidency in January 2014 after predecessor Sandro Rosell resigned. Last season was one of the most successful in the club’s history as they won the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League, boasted the most prolific front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, and posted a record €608-million profit.

Arturo Vidal has bid farewell to Italian champions Juventus ahead of his move to German counterparts Bayern Munich.  The two clubs have agreed on a €40 million fee for Vidal, who is expected to pen a four-year deal with Bayern. Vidal said on Instagram: "GRAZIE DI TUTTO! They have been the best years of my career! You, supporters, were always the best with me! ️ I will miss all of you a lot, thank you for everything #Juventus." The 28-year-old played a key role in Juve's run to the Champions League Final and Serie A triumph in 2014/15. Vidal, who also helped Chile claim Copa America honours earlier this month, joined the Old Lady from Bayer Leverkusen in 2011.

FIFA reportedly plan to amend World Cup bidding rules by preventing countries from contributing money to overseas football development projects. South Africa's staging of the 2010 edition of the event has been called into question by an FBI probe into alleged corruption at FIFA, while Swiss prosecutors are also investigating the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 bids. South Africa stands accused of paying a $10-million bribe to CONCACAF officials for securing hosting rights. Government, however, insists the payment was a legitimate contribution to the African Diaspora Legacy Programme. According to BBC Sport, FIFA intend on scrapping regulations which allow bidding nations to spend money overseas prior to and after a vote. 

Manchester City have confirmed the signing of midfielder Fabian Delph on a five-year deal from Aston Villa. Delph joins The Citizens on a five-year contract despite previously denying claims of a potential move to the Manchester-based club. City coach Manuel Pellegrini has praised the 25-year-old's decision to join the club and looks forward to working with the England international. “Fabian Delph is an excellent player, and I am looking forward to working with him," Pellegrini told his club's official website. “He has made a huge impact in recent seasons at Aston Villa, and is now one of the brightest young midfielders in the Premier League." The Chilean tactician also believes the former Villa captain will be an asset in his team, tipping Delph as a bright prospect in years to come. "Fabian has tremendous skill and energy, and the fact that he has become a regular member of the England squad is further evidence of his progress over the past few seasons. At just 25 years old, he still has his best years ahead of him.”

Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan says he does not understand why he has been criticised in some quarters for signing a lucrative contract with Shanghai SIPG. Gyan last week penned a two-year deal with the Chinese Super League side that will reportedly earn him €325,000 per week, placing him among the best paid sportsmen in the world. The 29-year-old has been accused of the move purely for financial reasons, as was the case when he traded Sunderland for UAE outfit Al-Ain 2012. However, Gyan insists he is merely doing what is right for himself and his close ones. "I don't understand the criticism," Gyan told BBC Sport. "I work hard for what I earn. I am focused on my job. It is not as if I am doing anything illegal or robbing people of their money. I have learned to turn the negatives into positives and so I make my decisions and understand that everyone works for money. At the end of my career, people will not criticise me anymore. They will move on to the next person. And at the end of my career the most important thing will be how well I did for myself, my family and those closest to me. This time is my era so I have to make sure I make the most of it." Gyan has scored a record 48 times for the Black Stars in 90 international appearances.

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has downplayed talk that new signing Arda Turan will be loaned out until January. The treble champions signed the Turkey captain from rivals Atletico Madrid for a reported fee of €34m, joining fellow new acquisition Aleix Vidal, yet due to their current transfer ban, Barca can only field their new recruits from January, when the ban is lifted. Rumours circulated that the club would loan out their players until next year to ensure game-time, yet coach Enrique has refuted such claims. "They cannot play until January and that does not favour us, but I want the new transfers around until then," he said. "It is not being contemplated nor will it be contemplated to loan out Arda Turan." Enrique then explained star forward Lionel Messi’s absence from their USA pre-season tour, before lamenting the travel time spent flying to North America. Messi is not in the US because he needs a vacation," he said. "His energy might seem eternal, but he needs a rest sometimes. I prefer not to tour, there are more problems than positives. It's a pleasure to come to countries such as the US but there are aspects such as jet lag which aren't ideal. We could be doing the same training sessions at home. Then again, it's nice to take part in friendly competitions and we'll try to prepare in training with these games in mind."

Football agent Santos Marquez has slammed Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, insisting he “doesn’t like black players”. Perez notably allowed hardman Claude Makalele to leave for European rivals Chelsea earlier in his tenure as president, while star Cameroon forward Samuel Eto’o was given just three games for Los Blancos before moving on to a number of top clubs later in his career. Now agent Marquez, who has former Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas on his books, has stuck in the boot to Perez as he revealed the disagreements the duo had over the former Galactico players. "It was over Makelele, for a lack of respect," the agent told AS. "Florentino doesn’t like black players; he’s not a racist but he doesn’t like them. I also fought with him over Eto’o. Samuel was just as much a Galactico as Figo. He left for the colour of his skin." Marques also feels Perez has his own favourites in the current Los Blancos squad, saying they often get preferential treatment.  "The squad knows who [Perez's favourites] are and so does the coach," the agent added. "The only clash he had with [former Madrid coach] Ancelotti was over Bale. He thinks that Bale is the best in the world. He doesn’t know how to take care of the Ballon d’Or winner [Cristiano Ronaldo] he already has in the squad. Bale is going to play wherever he likes. Another is Karim Benzema. He got rid of [Gonzalo] Higuain, [Angel] Di Maria, [Vicente] Del Bosque... none of whom were that bad. Del Bosque has won everything there is to win but what happened to him is what happened to me – he’s a not exactly a looker. So Florentino brought in a handsome bloke [Carlos Queiroz] who almost ruined the team."

MLS big-spenders Los Angeles Galaxy have completed the signing of former Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur attacking midfielder Giovani dos Santos. The Mexico international has joined from Spanish La Liga side Villarreal for a reported $7-million and effectively becomes the club’s fourth Designated Player (DP) thanks to a new MLS rule concerning the highest-earning players.   With the maximum of three DPs already on the Galaxy books - Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez - LA needed to wait until the new salary cap rule came into effect last week before completing the deal. To accommodate Dos Santos as a DP, something called targeted allocation money was used to bring down United States international Gonzalez’s salary and put him below the maximum salary regular players can earn ($436 250), thus removing his DP status. Dos Santos (26) will earn a reported $6-million per year – in the same bracket as Frank Lampard at New York City – and is set to join Galaxy in August after the Gold Cup. “Giovani is a special player,” LA Galaxy head coach and general manager Bruce Arena told the official club website. “He has experience and success competing at the highest level and we believe he will only continue to develop. We are happy to add him to our roster and have confidence he can be an integral part of our success going forward.” Galaxy president Chris Klein added: “We are committed to assembling the best roster that will compete for championships year in and year out. Giovani is yet another testament to that effort by Mr. Anschutz and our ownership group, who have continued to provide every resource for us to win.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez has hit out at Chelsea for making public their interest in John Stones. The Blues had a reported fee of £20-million offer turned down by the Toffees, and Martinez feels the English champions were out of line by making the news public. "There is the disappointment of a club making a statement to the press and making it openly," he said. "I don't think we'd do it and speak about a player. John Stones is an Everton player, full stop. We are not a selling club. We are not a club that needs to be worried about what other clubs put through the press." However, Mourinho believes Chelsea were well within their rights to do what they did. "When the transfer window is open, every club and player is open to bids,” he told Sky Sports. "Bids come for our players and we make bids for other players. The process can be so simple. I would advise Roberto Martinez to do the same thing I do. If I don't want to accept any offer, I say 'I don't accept any offer'. He can make it very, very easy."

Manchester United have identified Barcelona's Pedro and Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller as top targets as they look to bring in a new forward. United boss Louis van Gaal is in the market for striking reinforcements after allowing Robin van Persie to leave for Fenerbahce and opting against making Radamel Falcao's loan move from Monaco permanent. Van Gaal is eager to add to his attacking options as he only has Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and James Wilson as recognised forwards at the club. Barcelona ace Pedro's future has been the subject of speculation after finding himself down the pecking order at the Camp Nou last season. The Spain international found himself playing fiddle to the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez and he could consider moving on in search of regular first-team football. Chelsea are also keen on Pedro, who has a buy-out clause in his contract of £22 million, but United could rival their Premier League rivals should the 27-year-old become available. German ace Muller also figures highly on United's wanted list with Van Gaal a huge fan of the player, having worked with him during his time in charge of Bayern. United have already raided Bayern for Bastian Schweinsteiger and they are ready to test Bayern's resolve to hang onto Muller. United have been busy in the transfer market so far this summer bringing in Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has incurred the wrath of yet another player, with Robin van Persie this time having a go at the Dutchman. Van Gaal recently had a public falling out with goalkeeper Victor Valdes. Now Van Persie, who joined Turkish side Fenerbahce this week, has accused the manager of not giving him a chance after he recovered from his ankle injury.  “I asked to play in the reserves, to get my minutes, but after was on the bench again,” he said. “The atmosphere changed between me and Louis and people at the club saw it, but I was always professional. At that point I didn’t think to leave. Bouchra [his wife] was happy. The kids were happy. I was happy in Manchester. But I was still thinking we could come back from holiday and start from scratch. He had changed his mind about me before. When he took over Holland he said to me ‘You’re the No 3 striker.’ I was ‘O...K...’ but I fought and became the No 1 and his captain. But when I came back it wasn’t an honest battle any more. Fighting to get back in the team wasn’t given me as an option. He was sending me to Pitch Two. And I’m a mature player. I’m not stupid. I didn’t get angry or emotional. These things are part of football, part of life. You have to make the best out of any situation so I’m doing this by moving on. I know Louis as a national team coach and now I get to know him as a club coach. And there is a difference.”

Sunderland have recruited defender Younes Kaboul on a four-year contract from Tottenham. The 29-year-old joined the Black Cats for an undisclosed fee after passing a medical on Thursday. Kaboul is manager Dick Advocaat's fourth summer signing, following the arrival of Sebastian Coates, Adam Matthews and Jeremain Lens on Wearside. Meanwhile, defender Santiago Vergini has left Sunderland on a season-long loan deal to Spanish La Liga outfit Getafe.

Former prodigy Freddy Adu has signed for US second-tier club Tampa Bay - his 13th professional club. The 26-year-old was endorsed by Nike at 13, played Major League Soccer at 14 for D.C. United and represented the US at 16. However, the Ghanaian-born midfielder's career spiralled once he left for Portugal's Benfica in 2007. Adu later turned out for a string of teams, including in Brazil, Serbia and finally Finland, with his last side being lower-league outfit Kufu-98.

Brazilian attacker Robinho has signed a six-month deal with Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande. The 31-year-old has reunited with former Samba Boys coach Luiz Felipe Scolari at the club. Robinho joined on a free contract for a period of six months. After the expiration of the contract the club have a priority right of renewal. He will wear jersey number 60. The ex-Real Madrid and Manchester City man was released by AC Milan in May a year before his contract was due to expire. Robinho impressed on loan at Santos last season, netting 12 goals in all competitions to help his boyhood team win the Pauilstao state championship.

Manchester United plan to sell Victor Valdes because the goalkeeper refused to play for the club's reserves last season. Valdes penned an 18-month deal with the Premier League giants in January after recovering from a serious knee injury. Valdes had been tipped to replace David de Gea if he left for Real Madrid, but Red Devils manager Louis van Gaal has revealed the 33-year-old has lost favour at Old Trafford. "He is not selected because he does not follow our philosophy," Van Gaal said when explaining why the ex-Barcelona man had been left out of the squad for United's pre-season tour of the United States. When that is the case, there is not a place for a player. Last season, he refused to play in the second team and there are other aspects you need as a keeper at United. When you are not willing to follow those principles, there is only one way and that is out." The Dutchman added: "It is a big disappointment; we thought that he would follow our philosophy. It is a pity because we have given him the opportunity to rehabilitate, gave him a contract and then he is fit to play. If you do not play in the first team, our philosophy is to play in the second team and he did not do that." Valdes played twice under Van Gaal last season - against Arsenal and Hull, when De Gea was injured.

Stoke City have signed teenage winger Moha El Ouriachi from Barcelona for an undisclosed fee. The Potters announced the deal on Wednesday, but did not reveal the length of the 19-year-old's contract. El Ouriachi represented Spain at youth level and has been called up to Morocco's U-23 squad. Moha turned down Barcelona's offer of a new contract in favour of a move to the Potters, where he links-up with ex-Barca players Bojan and Marc Muniesa.  

Sunday Oliseh has taken over as the new head coach of the Super Eagles on a three-year deal. He replaces former teammate Stephen Keshi, and will be tasked with qualifying the team for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, with his first match against Tanzania in Dar es Salaam in September. Nigeria won their first qualifier against Chad 2-0 in June. Oliseh was one of the star players as the Super Eagles reached the Round of 16 at both the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, and also won the Nations Cup and Olympic gold.

Raheem Sterling has become the most expensive English player ever following his £49million move from Liverpool to Manchester City. The 20-year-old winger completed his move last week after undergoing a medical, and joined his new team on their tour in North America. The fee, initially for £44million, surpasses the £35million Liverpool paid Newcastle United for Andy Carroll in 2011, but is still some way off the most expensive transfer in British history – the £85.3million Real Madrid paid Tottenham Hotspur for Gareth Bale. Sterling had joined Liverpool for a meagre £600 000 from Queens Park Rangers in 2010.

Paris Saint-Germain have signed midfielder Benjamin Stambouli from Tottenham on a five-year deal. Stambouli spent one season at Spurs, making 25 appearances in all competitions in 2014/15 following his arrival from Montpellier last summer. "I am delighted and very proud to become a member of the Paris St Germain family," the 24-year-old said. "I wasn't necessarily planning to leave the Premier League after one year, but when a club the size of Paris St Germain calls you, it makes your choice a lot easier. That's the moment when you can experience the power of attraction surrounding this club. I will now focus on my preparation."