International News - Issue 276

Jose Mourinho Casts Doubt On Chelsea Title Challenge

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has casted doubt over his side's chances of defending their Barclays Premier League title following a 3-1 defeat at Everton. 'The Special One' has admitted his uncertainty of Chelsea's chances to succesfully defend their 2014/15 Premier League title, following a dismal start to the campaign. The Blues have won just one game in their opening five league fixtures, a close 3-2 win away at West Brom last month which has since been followed by defeats to Crystal Palace and Everton. However, with just four points from the five matches this season, Mourinho has conceded that his team don't look like a Premier League-winning side this season. "I don’t know if we can win the title. It depends on how we improve and on the clubs above us," 'Mou' said after the match. "We need to win consecutive matches and we can win against Arsenal in our next [league] match." The Portuguese manager, however, remains confident of his future at Stamford Bridge despite the poor start, while chants from Everton fans singing 'You’re getting sacked in the morning' also did not bother Mourinho. “I’m not under pressure. The refugees are under pressure. It’s a pleasure and an honour to be Chelsea manager," he added.

Louis van Gaal says Manchester United fans should be pleased with the club’s start to the season. The Red Devils have looked lethargic in the Premier League this season, but sprung into life with a 3-1 win against Liverpool last weekend. The result saw them move third, five points behind arch-rivals Manchester City, and Van Gaal says they can be happy with that. "We have qualified [for the Uefa Champions League], we have 10 points out of five matches and I think that is a good record – there is only one club better," the Dutchman says. "Our aim is to be the best. Now we are five points behind Manchester City so we still look to that position, but I am happy. "In a difficult period like we had in the transfer period with a lot of problems with players coming and going then I think we have managed it very well."

Emmanuel Adebayor has been released by Tottenham Hotspur. The Togolese striker has not played this season and is clearly not part of manager Mauricio Pochettino’s plans, having played just six minutes in the last six months. He had been tipped to move to Aston Villa or West Ham United on transfer deadline day, but the deal fell through, reportedly because of the player’s high wage demands. Adebayor joined Spurs in 2012, initially on loan from Manchester City, having also played for Metz, Monaco, Arsenal and Real Madrid.

Andre Ayew and Manuel Pellegrini have won the Premier League's player and manager of the month awards for August. Ayew netted three goals in four League appearances for new club Swansea City, while Pellegrini's Manchester City are top of the table with a 100 percent record from four games having yet to concede. Ghanaian Ayew, who joined the Swans from Marseille on a free transfer in the summer, was favoured ahead of fellow nominees Chris Smalling, Riyad Mahrez, David Silva and Aleksandar Kolarov. Pellegrini saw off competition from Alan Pardew, Garry Monk and Claudio Ranieri for the managerial accolade.

Oostende won 5-1 in the Belgian Pro League without Andile Jali and Knowledge Musona, while Darren Keet kept another clean sheet for Kortrijk. Ivorian striker Gohi Bi Cyriac netted a hat-trick for Oostende in a big win over Waasland-Beveren as Jali and Musona sat out of the matchday squad. Jali was excused after his partner gave birth to his second child. Former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Keet stood goal once again as Kortrijk drew 0-0 with Oud-Heverlee. It was Keet's third clean sheet of the season and his side boasts the joint-best defence having conceded only five goals in seven games. Oostende are top of the Pro League with 16 points after seven matches, while Kortrijk are ninth with nine points.

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea has signed a new four-year contract with the club with the option to extend for a further year. According to reports, De Gea will earn £200,000 a week under the new deal. De Gea, who nearly joined Real Madrid on transfer deadline day, returned to the starting line-up in Manchester United's 3-1 win over Liverpool at Old Trafford. The 24-year-old was overlooked for United's first six games of the season - to the benefit of Argentine keeper Sergio Romero - after manager Louis van Gaal questioned his focus.

Angel Di Maria says Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Di Maria and Messi are Argentina teammates, while the former played with Ronaldo for four years at Real Madrid. Messi and Ronaldo have won the past seven Ballon d'Ors between them, with Ibrahimovic yet to claim football's top individual playing prize. "As you know, I have had the chance to play with Leo, Cristiano and [Wayne] Rooney, but now Ibra," Di Maria told Le Parisien. "Frankly, I am impressed by the quality of his technique and his movement. He's on the same level as Leo and CR7." Meanwhile, the 27-year-old has faith PSG can progress from their Champions League group, which includes Real, Shakhtar Donetsk and Malmo. "We have many good players, we have a lot of ambition and I have come to help this team, like others before me, win this competition," he added. "It's possible for us to win our group, too, but it will be complicated.” I think we will have to be perfect at home because it will be difficult to win away in this group. "There is no miracle recipe for beating Madrid either. One of the important things is not to make any mistakes because, let's face it, they are a team of very talented players with lots of experience. "This is what happened in Paris last season against Barcelona in the quarter-finals, with two mistakes costing them dearly. "With Madrid, it is the same. But if the Spaniards make mistakes, with our team, we can make them pay very badly. "As I often say, to win the Champions League, you need a little luck, to play the best games possible and also rely on a close-knit group. The latter is one of the most important conditions," concluded Di Maria, who traded Manchester United for PSG in the off-season.

Manchester United newcomer Anthony Martial has made the ideal start to his career at Old Trafford, according to teammate Michael Carrick. Martial netted a superb solo goal on debut in a 3-1 home victory over fierce rivals Liverpool. The 19-year-old became the world's most expensive teenager when he joined United from Monaco last month in deal that could be worth £58 million with add-ons. "He is off the mark now. He has announced himself; everyone has seen it on the big stage. It's a good start for him," Carrick said. "It's a good way to settle him and if that has raised expectation then so be it but that is part of the game. It doesn't get any better than that does it, coming in and coming on and scoring against Liverpool like that. "He has done well to get in that position and I thought the finish was terrific, how he just slotted it home, he was so calm and composed and you can't ask for a better start. “It’s a lot of money, of course it is. I suppose time will tell, won't it? But to start like that you can't really ask for more."

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho may currently be under pressure but former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is convinced the Portuguese would have excelled in the Reds or England hotseat. The Blues have made their worst start to a top-flight campaign since 1986, claiming four points from their opening five matches following a 3-1 loss at Everton on Saturday. La Galaxy midfielder Gerrard, however, has huge faith in Mourinho. In his autobiography, which is being serialised by the Daily Mail, Gerrard wrote: "It was clear that, tactically, he could set up his team to win any football match... because he was a pure winner. But, more than that, he created a special bond with each squad he managed. "You heard it in the way his players spoke about him. You saw it in the way they played for him. "For me, the ideal situation would obviously have been for Mourinho to have managed Liverpool. He was linked with a move to Anfield a couple of times but it never materialised. I know I'm biased, but I think it would have been a perfect match. "The Liverpool fans would have loved him and he would have known exactly how to turn that love into adoration. He always told me about his deep respect for our supporters. Jose would have had a fantastic time bringing huge success to Liverpool." The 35-year-old, who left Anfield at the end of last season, added: "If Jose Mourinho had managed England in 2004 and 2006 I'm convinced we could have reached at least one major final.”Imagine what he could have got out of a group that included (David) Beckham, (Paul) Scholes, (Michael) Owen, (John) Terry, (Gary) Neville, (Wayne) Rooney, (Sol) Campbell, (Rio) Ferdinand, (Frank) Lampard, (Ashley) Cole, Gerrard and a few others." England's 'golden generation' endured quarter-final exits at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups as well as Euro 2004 under Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Cristiano Ronaldo deserves his place among the club’s greatest legends, Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez says. "I like to talk about the team when you get a victory this big, but you cannot forget the five goals Ronaldo scored. And it could even have been more," Benitez after Ronaldo scored five times in the 6-0 demolition of Espanyol. "The numbers speak for themselves. Someone who scores so many goals deserves a place in history. There is no doubt about that. He deserves his place just like Raul and Alfredo Di Stefano. We are talking about three historic players here. I hope Cristiano will keep scoring, for himself and for the team.” In setting an all-time club La Liga goals record, Ronaldo surpassed Raul, and left in his wake Alfred di Stefano – an Argentine so good he was considered the world’s best player until Pele arrived to challenge that. When CR7 netted his fourth goal, he set the new record, and by full-time, his Madrid League tally stood at 230 goals, two goals ahead of Raul; way ahead of Di Stefano, who netted 216 times for Real Madrid in La Liga. Di Stefano’s haul was amassed during the 50’s and 60s, when Madrid were the most successful club side in the world. He also netted 11 La Liga goals for – ironically – Espanyol at the end of his career, for a total of 227. Ronaldo had beaten that particular mark by half-time.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has continued his assault on rival club Real Madrid, and insists he won’t quit the national team following heavy criticism. The 28-year-old centre-back was jeered by Spanish supporters in Spain’s 2-0 win over Slovakia last weekend, and while it was initially thought the boos were against the player’s political view regarding Catalonia’s independence, the player himself believes it is Madrid fans venting their anger after he mocked them during Barca’s treble celebrations last season. "I think they [Spain fans] whistle me because of the Barca-Madrid rivalry," he said. "But I won't change. The rivalry is passionate and when one team is doing well, the other is doing badly. "So let's hope things go as badly as possible for Real Madrid. And those who don't like it will have to put up with me until I retire!” Pique then declared his love for his current team, yet says he still has a good relationship with the players of his fierce rivals. "I love Barcelona, but that doesn't stop me having a fantastic relationship with the Real Madrid players,” he continued. “Iker [Casillas] sent me flowers when my second child was born and I told him I hoped they would let in four [against Atletico] - and they went and let in four the next day. We still talk about that! "I watched the Madrid-Juve game with a [Gianluigi] Buffon shirt on. I want Madrid to lose always. I love my club and nobody should expect me to change or ask for forgiveness." "When I get booed by Madrid fans at the Bernabeu, it is like music to my ears!" Pique insists he won’t be bullied into quitting the national team despite the lack of support from many Spanish fans. "Quitting the national team is the last thing I would do,” he said. “That would be giving in to those who whistle for the wrong reasons." "My commitment to the national team is total."

Steven Gerrard has revealed that he used to regularly contact Liverpool transfer targets in an attempt to persuade them to sign for the Reds. The former Liverpool captain says that most summers he would be asked to speak to a high-profile transfer target, in the belief that being contacted by the England midfielder might act as a lure. Gerrard revealed he was recently tasked with approaching Brazilian Willian and German World Cup winner Toni Kroos, although they eventually joined Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively. Gerrard discussed the role he played in player recruitment in his new autobiography, My Story, which is currently being serialised in the Daily Mail. "It was the same ritual every summer. The club would let me know which long-shot target they had in mind and ask me to contact him," Gerrard said. "In 2013, the latest player in our sights was Willian, the Brazilian midfielder. Instead of calling directly, I always sent a text. It was the opening move in a familiar game." Gerrard added Willian was extremely courteous but that he made it clear there were other clubs interested in signing him. "The next text from Willian was so obvious I could have written it for him, even before I read it," Gerrard added. "He again said that it would be great to play in the same team as me but 'I'm not sure Liverpool can give me the Champions League'. He went to Chelsea." However, next summer Gerrard and Liverpool went after arguably an even more unlikely target. Gerrard wrote: "Our target in 2014 was ridiculously optimistic. Brendan (Rodgers, Liverpool manager) asked me to take a crack at trying to talk Toni Kroos into signing for Liverpool. "I knew Real Madrid were gearing up to make Bayern Munich an offer and so I felt a bit awkward when I texted Kroos. But God loves a trier and so I gave it a whirl. "Some of the best footballers in the world can also be the most respectful. Kroos did not make me feel like I was a total idiot. But, of course, he would soon sign for Real."

Spanish glamour clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona are the only two soccer clubs in the top five of Forbes' new list of most valuable sports franchises in the world. The prestigious Forbes list, last released in July 2015, shows that Los Galacticos have lost top spot to NFL team Dallas Cowboys, which is now the hottest property on the sports scene valued at $4-billion (£2.6bn). UEFA Champions League holders Barcelona are the only other soccer club in the top five following their consistent success and big-name signings over the past few years. Manchester United – once the most valuable sports brand in the world – are the highest-ranked team from the Premier League with a value of $3.1-billion (£2.01bn), helped by a lucrative new 10-year sponsorship deal with Adidas.

World’s five most valuable sports teams
1. Dallas Cowboys: $4-billion (£2.6bn)
2. Real Madrid: $3.26-billion (£2.1bn)
3. New England Patriots: $3.2-billion (£2.07bn)
4. New York Yankees: $3.2-billion (£2.07bn)
5. Barcelona: $3.16-billion (£2.05bn)

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has travelled to the United States in order to find a cure for his heel injury. The England midfielder flew to New York with club doctor Andy Massey on Monday and will visit orthopaedic specialist Dr James Cozzarelli in New Jersey, where he will undergo treatment on the injury. Henderson has missed Liverpool's past three matches with Arsenal, West Ham and Manchester United, but it is believed surgery to correct the injury is not being considered at this current stage. The 25-year-old limped out of Liverpool's 1-0 victory over newly-promoted Bournemouth on August 17 and has not featured since for Brendan Rodgers' side. Rodgers had hoped Henderson would return following the international break, but the Liverpool boss could face the prospect of being without him for an extended period. A return date has not be set, though it is hoped Henderson's visit to Cozzarelli will help identify the issue and accelerate his recovery back to full fitness. Liverpool have struggled in the absence of their newly-appointed skipper, picking up just one point from nine and suffering back-to-back defeats to West Ham and Manchester United.

Napoli icon Diego Maradona says club coach Maurizio Sarri is not worthy of guiding the Serie A outfit. Sarri took charge of the team in the off-season following Rafa Benitez's departure to Real Madrid. The 56-year-old has since overseen a loss and back-to-back defeats, with Maradona casting heavy doubt over the Italian's capabilities. "I have great respect for Sarri," Maradona - who helped Partenopei claim two League titles in 1986-87 and 1989-90 as well as the 1989-89 Uefa Cup - told +N Pienne. "But we won't have a winning Napoli with him.I'd have kept Benitez, who went to Real Madrid, which confirms his work and the fact he's not lacking in admirers around the world. "The two points from three games seems to be deserved. This Napoli team doesn't have a good style of play, or a defence that offers the peace of mind to be able to dream big. "This Napoli will struggle to finish in mid-table, I'm angry because they didn't deserve this downsizing.It reminds me of my first Napoli team, where we were struggling to avoid relegation, and that's my biggest fear. "Sarri is a good person, but he's not worthy of Napoli. For him to be on the bench is a great gift. They needed a coach who understands the size and prestige of the club. "But the fault lies with those who put him on the bench."