International News - Issue 278

Barcelona Coach Luis Enrique Confident His Side Will Be Fine Without Lionel Messi

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique feels his side will cope just fine in the absence of star player Lionel Messi. The Argentine talisman suffered a knee injury in Barca’s 2-1 victory over Las Palmas last weekend, and has subsequently been ruled out of action for up to two months. Yet Enrique feels his squad has enough depth two survive without their key forward, despite admitting it is a big blow for his side. "All my players give always their top so I can't ask them more due to Messi’s absence,” the Blaugrana coach said. "Messi and Rafinha injuries are challenges for us. "We will do what we have to do without Messi, a player like him is impossible to replace but we showed during the preseason we know how to play without him, we will introduce new players. “We have already thought about changing our playing style without Messi because our main goal is to be on the top at the end of the season.” The Argentine is set to miss a number of high-profile matches, including three Champions League group stage fixtures, two international games for his country and up to six La Liga fixtures, including the much-anticipated El Clasico against Real Madrid in mid-November.

Former Chelsea midfielder Andre Schurrle says he left Stamford Bridge because he did not have the trust of coach Jose Mourinho. The German World Cup winner made a permanent move to Bundesliga side Wolfsburg, having made 65 appearances for the Blues since joining in June 2013. The 24-year-old has now revealed his reasons for leaving London, insisting Mourinho did not trust him. “There was a time in my second season when I felt I didn't have the manager's trust anymore,” he said. "I don't know why Mourinho didn't trust me. It all felt a bit weird to me. It was up and down the whole time. I didn't get any consistency from the manager, so found it hard to produce my best. "That's probably the biggest reason I wanted to leave.” Schurrle says it was hard for young players at Chelsea to crack into the starting XI, while admitting it was tough to play second fiddle behind star man Eden Hazard. "It's difficult for young players at Chelsea because they're a big team with big stars. It's not easy to play every match,” he said. "It's even harder for the wingers as there are only two in the team and Eden plays always, as he's the best player in the League. "So you have one position on the right wing which was between Willian, Oscar, myself, sometimes Juan Mata, occasionally Kevin De Bruyne. "The other thing is that Eden is given more freedom so the other winger has to work even harder. You have to work for that freedom, and Eden deserves it as he creates everything up front. "He scores goals and makes assists so it's right he should have that freedom." Wolfsburg are currently fourth in the Bundesliga, nine points behind leaders Bayern Munich.

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata revealed his delight in his side’s solid start to the season, yet insists there is still a long way to go. United’s 3-0 win over Sunderland saw them climb to top spot in the Premier League standings for the first time in two years – and the first time since their Spanish midfielder joined the club. "Our victory, together with City's defeat, took us to the top spot in the table, which is something new for me since I came to Manchester United," Mata wrote in his blog. "From the first day I was hoping to see the team in this place that the club has occupied so many times in the past." The 27-year-old, who has already scored three goals in seven League appearances, feels his club are riding the crest of the wave, and is delighted to bring joy to the Red Devils’ supporters. "These are happy days,” he said. “That's the feeling I've had during the entire week, since things have gone pretty well lately. It's only the start of the season, but I believe that we deserve to enjoy such a good moment like this, and keep training hard to extend the good streak for a long time. "As we can see, the day-to-day work is paying off, and I'm also happy for all of you, of course. It’s been a long time since you have experienced a situation like this and we hope to keep giving you a good vibe.” However, the Spaniard feels United should not get ahead of themselves in the early stages of the season. "Our current position is a consequence of the good work, but right now, still in September, it doesn't mean anything if we don't keep working, and we know that,” he said. "We have ambition, but we are aware that the way ahead is very long and tough." United face a tough encounter against rivals Arsenal in their next League fixture on Sunday. 

Chelsea doctor, Eva Carneiro has quit the club, and is considering legal action over Jose Mourinho’s decision to sideline her. Carneiro was told she was no longer to attend training sessions, matches or enter the team hotel after Mourinho blamed her and physiotherapist, Jon Fearn for running on to treat Eden Hazard during the 2-2 draw with Swansea at Stamford Bridge on August 8. Referee Michael Oliver had twice signaled the Chelsea medical team to attend to Hazard, but Mourinho labeled them “na├»ve” as Chelsea were down to 10 men following Thibault Cortois’ dismissal and already had Branislav Ivanovic lying injured on the pitch. The Premier League Doctors’ Group stated that Mourinho’s decision to demote Carneiro and publically criticize her appeared “disproportionate” and could amount to “public humiliation,” breaching Chelsea’s duties as her employer. Mourinho criticised Carneiro and Fearne in three separate media interviews, and accused them of not understanding football. Meanwhile, the English FA is investigating a complaint that Mourinho used abusive language during the incident, allegedly calling Carneiro a ‘Filha da Puta,’ meaning ‘daughter of a whore’.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane suspects he silenced some of his critics after breaking his scoring drought in the 4-1 rout of Manchester City last weekend. Kane netted for the first time this season just past the hour-mark at White Hart Lane, ending a run of 748 minutes without a goal. The 22-year-old struck 31 times in all competitions last term. "Maybe I shut up a few people who have been talking over the last few weeks," said Kane. "Only seven games and a few people said 'one-season wonder'. People can judge me at the end of the season and we will go from there. I have to stay focused but it is great to score. "When you score like last season it becomes a drug, and when someone takes it away from you, you want to get it back. You want to score again and it was a good feeling to score again. "It is frustrating [to be criticised]. I kind of use it to get my juices flowing and to prove these people wrong. I have had to prove people wrong throughout my career to get where I am. "It is not easy coming through as a youngster but it makes me want to get better and the more people say it, the more I want to prove them wrong."

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini insists his team can win the UEFA Champions League. The Citizens have a poor record in Europe’s top club competition over the past four years, having failed to progress past the last 16 even once.  But Pellegrini insists his side is maturing and it’s only a matter of time before they lift the trophy. “This is a very young team compared with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus,” he says. “We are younger than the teams who normally win the Champions League over the last 10 years. "Our team has only arrived in the last few years and we are improving every season. "That will continue and I am absolutely sure that we will arrive to be an important team that wins the Champions League."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang became the first player in Bundesliga history to score in the opening seven games of a season, but it was still not enough to see Borussia Dortmund win. The Gabon international scored twice in the second half at Signal Iduna Park after Marcel Heller had given Darmstadt a surprise lead. However, Aytac Sulu netted a last-gasp equaliser to deny Dortmund all three points, leaving them four behind leaders Bayern Munich, who have won all seven their matches so far.

Marcelo has defended Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo amid accusations that he only plays for personal accolades. ‘CR7’ is closing in on Raul’s Real record, and some feel he is so obsessed with getting the two goals needed that he is putting the team second. Ronaldo had 14 attempts on goal in last Saturday’s goalless draw with Malaga, but Marcelo insists it was not because of selfishness. “Everyone knows what Cristiano is like," the Brazilian tells the club’s website. “He is not obsessed with beating records, but rather he aims to help the team to win.” Real are currently third in La Liga standings, two points behind surprise leaders Villarreal.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says he is not afraid of being sacked, and adds that the pressure spurs him on. Rodgers has come under fire in recent weeks but says the fear of losing his job is what drives him. "I'm never complacent enough to think that it [my job] has never been [at risk]. It's probably what drives a manager on - that fear; positive fear," he said. "Every day you need to be at your best and when you come into here, into a club of this stature, that [pressure] is always there. "It doesn't frighten me, I have an inherent belief in what I do." Rumours have linked former Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti with the job at Merseyside, however, Rodgers says he has become immune to rumours of being replaced by other managers. "I think when you're a manager of club of this size there's always going to be speculation around the job. If you're not winning, that will intensify. "I think there have been 10 managers linked with the club while I've been here. You take that as part and parcel of the game." The former Swansea mentor assures he has a good relationship with the club owners, and says he has grown as a manager in his time at Anfield. "I have regular contact with the owners and the relationship has always been strong. Whether I'm here for one day, one month, another year, whatever, I'll always have a respect for the owners and the people I work with closely here, such as [chief executive] Ian Ayre. "I walked in here three years ago as a 39-year-old manager and as I sit here today I'm a much better manager. But I understand you need to get results and that is the aim."

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Marquee Manchester City signing Kevin De Bruyne insists he does not want to be the star at his new club, but is aiming to remain humble in doing the job for his team. The Citizens paid Wolfsburg a whopping £54million for the Bundesliga Player of the Year, yet the 24-year-old says he does not want to be known as the star player at the Etihad. "I don't want to be the star, I just want to play good," De Bruyne said. "Obviously, there is a big price tag, but I had a four-year contract left and Wolfsburg didn't want to let me go. So it is totally different to when I had a one-year contract and they wanted me to leave. "It is a lot of money, but I need to play football. It is a lot of money, but I am not the only one [at City].” The Belgian says he is naturally a reserved character, and won’t let his big-money move to England change who he is. "At Wolfsburg, I was the star, but at the end of the day I am not the guy who speaks a lot,” he said. “I don't want to be a captain. I'm not loud in the dressing room or outside. That is not my style. I just do my stuff on the pitch and help the team. "I have always been like this and I will try to stay the same. You get kids who look up to you as a role model, but I don't know why I should change. "I am happy with the way my life is going, and I'm happy the way it has gone for 24 years, so I don't know why I should change. I like it quiet with my family. "I have never been the guy who speaks and jokes the most. And I need to get to know everyone at City too."

Sepp Blatter has again pleaded his innocence in the ongoing investigations over alleged criminal mismanagement and misappropriation at FIFA. The governing body's president is accused of “misappropriating funds and abusing his power”, while also being suspected of “disloyal payment” of approximately $2-million to UEFA boss Michel Platini, who had hoped to succeed the 79-year-old. But, in a statement released by his lawyer, Blatter insists everything was done above board. "President Blatter spoke to FIFA staff today and informed the staff that he was cooperating with the authorities, reiterated that he had done nothing illegal or improper and stated that he would remain as president of FIFA,” the statement read. “On the Michel Platini matter, president Blatter on Friday shared with the Swiss authorities the fact that Mr Platini had a valuable employment relationship with FIFA serving as an advisor to the president beginning in 1998. “He explained to the prosecutors that the payments were valid compensation and nothing more and were properly accounted for within Fifa including the withholding of Social Security contributions. “Because of the continuing investigation president Blatter will answer no further questions at this time.” Blatter will maintain his role as president until the FIFA elections in February.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho believes there is a "desire to suspend" striker Diego Costa following his retrospective ban for grappling with Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny. Mourinho was full of praise for the Spain international's performance against the Gunners, but when asked if he'd like all 11 players to show the same desire, he said: "I think we would lose every game because the desire to suspend him is so big that we wouldn't have players to start the game. "I'm happy to have only one and let him play until they decide to suspend him again." "Untouchables in football, only consistency can give you that status," he added. "You have to be a fantastic player, but you have to be consistent. "In this moment we have fantastic players, the players that gave us the title last season. But football is about today, it's not about yesterday. In football you have to be consistent in your performance, in your emotion. "To be a winner you don't need to win all the time, but to be a winner you must have a strong mentality every game, every day. At this moment I don't have untouchables."

Barcelona star Javier Mascherano was charged with two counts of defrauding the Spanish tax authorities of a total of more than €1.5 million, Spain's public prosecutor said on Monday. Mascherano, who joined Barcelona from English club Liverpool in August 2010, is alleged to have sought to conceal earnings from his image rights by using companies set up in the United States and Portugal, the prosecutor's office said. The 31-year-old is accused of defrauding the authorities of €587,822.01 in 2011 and €968,907.76 in 2012. The Argentina star made no immediate public comment on the charges, which were reported last week. This month he paid the back-taxes owed plus almost €200,000 in interest, the office said, and local media reported this could work in his favour if he is found guilty. Mascherano opted to pay the back taxes and the fine based on his legal counsel's advice but was not able to avoid the tax fraud complaint, despite the fact that the state cannot seek more restitution and can only possibly request a minimum punishment. The source said the state will likely ask Mascherano to enter a guilty plea. The agency opened an investigation into Mascherano's taxes shortly after a Portuguese TV station claimed that the player had avoided paying taxes in Madeira's duty free zone. A Spanish judge must now rule on whether the Mascherano case should go to trial.The probe revealed that the fraud had been committed in two tax communities -- Madeira and Miami -- both of them created while the player was with Liverpool and maintained once he moved to Barcelona. The unpaid taxes were €587,822 in 2011 and €968,907 in 2012, according to the report. The case is similar to that of Mascherano's Barcelona and Argentina teammate, Lionel Messi, who is 2007 and 2009. If found guilty, both Messi and his father could be fined up to €21m and receive a one-year suspended prison sentence. The Spanish government has recently been cracking down particularly hard on tax evasion amid the country's continuing economic woes, with Messi one of a number of high-profile targets against whom cases have been opened. La Liga clubs and players have long used "image rights" to avoid paying higher income tax rates, while the Spanish authorities have regularly found this approach to be illegal, with current Barcelona coach Luis Enrique among those who have previously made a settlement. According to El Pais, Spain considers Madeira a tax haven and investigated a business Mascherano incorporated there in 2010 called Anadyr Overseas, to which Mascherano sold his image rights for €5m. Spain's tax law allows a player to sell up to 15 percent of his image rights to a company, image rights which Barcelona began to pay to Anadyr Overseas, but Hacienda claimed that Mascherano did not pay, despite the fact that he had established residency in Spain. The report also said that Spain is charging Mascherano for failing to pay taxes on image rights from Nike via Lofer, a company he established out of Miami. More than one third of the back taxes were related to the Lofer income.