International News - Issue 279




Liverpool Sack Rodgers To Target Klopp And Ancelotti

Liverpool have sacked coach Brendan Rodgers "with immediate effect" following the side's 1-1 draw with Everton. Following a poor start to his third season at the helm, the club have announced that Rodgers' contract has been terminated with immediate effect. The Reds have collected just 12 points in the Premier League this season, leaving the club in 10th place after their opening eight fixtures. “We would like to place on record our sincere thanks to Brendan Rodgers for the significant contribution he has made to the club and express our gratitude for his hard work and commitment," read a statement on the club's official website. “All of us have experienced some wonderful moments with Brendan as manager and we are confident he will enjoy a long career in the game. “Although this has been a difficult decision, we believe it provides us with the best opportunity for success on the pitch. Ambition and winning are at the heart of what we want to bring to Liverpool and we believe this change gives us the best opportunity to deliver it. “The search for a new manager is underway and we hope to make an appointment in a decisive and timely manner.” Rodgers issued a lengthy statement to the club’s fans, describing his tenure in charge as an honour and a privilege. “I am, of course, incredibly disappointed to be leaving Liverpool Football Club. It has been both an honour and a privilege to manage one of the game’s great clubs for the last three years,” he wrote. “I have worked every day to represent the club to the best of my ability, to develop both individual players and a team that the club’s magnificent fans can be proud of. There have been some very memorable moments during my time at Liverpool and I would like to thank all of the players for their hard work and commitment. "The current squad is one in transition, but they have some real talent and are showing a strong sense of togetherness. I expect to see them continue to grow and develop over the coming weeks and I wish them and my successor well for the rest of the season.” Rodgers then thanked the fans for their support while giving his full backing to the team. Liverpool have made contact with representatives of Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti. The club are keen to appoint a successor to Rodgers as quickly as possible. Liverpool plan to appoint a new manager before they go to Tottenham on October 17 after the international break and have no plans to appoint a caretaker as they hope to have the vacancy filled. Klopp and Ancelotti are currently out of work, Klopp after leaving Borussia Dortmund and Ancelotti after he was let go by Real Madrid in the summer. It emerged last month Klopp is keen on working in the Premier League, while Ancelotti won the title during a two-year spell at Chelsea.

Brendan Rodgers has received some torrid abuse in recent weeks but after reading this, you may be hesitant about making a snap assumption about the former Swansea and Reading boss. Last year, the manager heard that a young employee at the club — not one in his sphere of Melwood — was undergoing life-changing surgery. The night before the patient-to-be was due into hospital to prepare for the operation, he received a phone call off Rodgers, who encouraged him to be brave and think not of the procedure, but of the betterment that would follow it. It touched him, and even now, the lad cannot fully articulate how much that gesture from the boss meant to him. When Jordan Henderson’s dad was diagnosed with cancer before Christmas in 2013, he agonised for ages about how to break the news to the midfielder, eventually telling him shortly before starting treatment on his throat and tongue. After the emotional reveal to his son, Brian wanted to meet with the manager. “I went to speak to Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, who was very understanding. He gave Jordan time off, and the people at Liverpool were amazing,” he explained. Henderson too was appreciative of the support he received from the gaffer, telling the Independent: “He was so good to me and my family when my dad was having surgery and he doesn’t just manage players in a football sense, it’s more than that.” Throwback to the times Raheem Sterling spent splashed across newspapers over accusations of assault rather than contract negotiations, and one of the primary people ensuring those indiscretions didn’t become a regular theme was Rodgers. “He helps me a lot with not just my football but if I need someone to talk to about off the field then he’s there for me. He’s helped me massively, especially on the pitch as well, so I have to give credit to him and thank him a lot,” admitted the attacker. In Luis Suarez’s autobiography, Crossing the Line, the striker revealed how the 42-year-old inspired the squad during their title tilt last season by speaking to them in a language they all understood — the love of their mums. “Brendan Rodgers had been delivering very special team talks. He had contacted our mothers, one by one, and asked them to write something about their son. Before every game as we went on the run which saw us come so close to winning the title, he would spend the final few minutes before we went out reading what one of them had said in front of the whole team. The final word came not from the manager but a player’s mum.” Philippe Coutinho detailed how that unconventional approach, both emotional and encouraging, fired himself and the team up. In January this year, Rodgers sent a personal letter of condolence to a supporter whose grandfather had recently passed away. Joe, the recipient of the note, explained: “I couldn’t believe it at first. I took it straight to my dad to show him. “We were both absolutely made up that such an important person for the club had thought about the family at this sad time. It was a great gesture on behalf of the manager and club that they took the time to write a letter at this busy period for the club. “I’d like to thank them on behalf of the family as it means a lot to us. I would love to get the chance to personally thank Brendan Rodgers for making a hard time a little more bearable.” Also at the start of the year, the manager read that Doncaster’s Dean Furman, whom he coached at Chelsea’s youth set-up, would be captaining South Africa at the Nations Cup. He asked me to pass on a message of congratulations to the midfielder, and spoke about how proud he was of his persistence. Furman was in camp ahead of the tournament when I texted him to relay Rodgers’ support, and he said such words were both unexpected and the exact kind of affirmation and encouragement he was in need of. Meanwhile, the manager has not forgotten the misery of being out of work — those seven months after being dismissed by Reading in 2009 ranking as one of the most painful experiences of his life, and so he makes a point of contacting every sacked boss to extend an invitation to Melwood as there are few things as depressing as being denied the thing your life revolves around. Such examples are plentiful, and you probably want to know what they have to do with football, and that’s precisely the point — THERE IS NO NEED TO GET PERSONAL. He may not be your cup of tea, or shot of Sambuca, but he’s a man who is the manager of the football club you purportedly support, and he’s determined to do his very best for Liverpool. Whether or not you feel his best is good enough for LFC, your argument should never descend into malicious attacks. Brendan’s acts of kindness may not win points or trophies, but neither does the constant slander. Stop it. Play the ball, not the manager.

Premier League club Chelsea have publicly voiced their backing of under-fire coach Jose Mourinho. The reigning EPL champions lost 3-1 to Southampton over the weekend in what was their fourth defeat in the opening eight matches of the season, mouting pressure on the ‘Special One’. Yet the Blues have issued a statement backing the Portuguese manager. "The club wants to make it clear that Jose continues to have our full support," Chelsea said in a brief statement published on their website. "As Jose has said himself, results have not been good enough and the team's performances must improve. However, we believe that we have the right manager to turn this season around and that he has the squad with which to do it." Following last Saturday’s loss, Mourinho gave a lengthy post-match interview in which he firmly stated he would not vacate his position as coach until he is forcibly removed. "If the club wants to sack me, they have to sack me, because I am not running away," he told Sky Sports. "It is a crucial moment in the history of this club because if the club sacks me, they sack the best manager this club has had and the message is bad results and the manager is guilty. "This is a moment for people to assume their responsibilities. I assume my responsibility and the players should assume theirs too. There are other people at the club who should assume their responsibilities and stick together." Chelsea currently sit 16th in the League standings, 10 points behind leaders Manchester City. Mourinho has been charged by the English FA for misconduct following the statements made after his side’s defeat to Southampton last Saturday. The Blues lost their fourth League encounter in eight matches, as Mourinho embarked on a seven-minute rant after the match in which he singled out what he believes was incompetence by the match officials. "The referees are afraid to give decisions to Chelsea. Once more, we don't get the penalty at a crucial moment in the game," Mourinho told Sky Sports. "The penalty in this game is crucial because my team, at the moment, the first negative thing that happens, they collapse. "The penalty was a giant penalty, and after that, the team lost even more confidence. "If [the FA] want to punish me, they can punish me. They don't punish other managers," Mourinho added. "I want to say it again: referees are afraid to give decisions for Chelsea. "The penalty was a giant penalty and the referee was afraid to give it, like everyone else is afraid to give it." The FA has now charged Mourinho with misconduct following his remarks. "It is alleged his remarks constitute improper conduct in that they allege and/or imply bias on the part of a match official or match officials and/or bring the game into disrepute,” an FA statement read. Mourinho has until Thursday evening to respond to the charge.

Karim Benzema has admitted he is "fed up" at being repeatedly substituted by Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez. The French striker opened the scoring in a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid last Sunday but was taken off for the fifth time in six La Liga starts this season. "Substitutions are what the coach decides, I'm just there to help my team-mates," Benzema told AS. "It's true I'm fed up of being taken off. I'm calm and will continue to work so I'm not always subtituted. He took me off to get a result, for defensive reasons. "It's true that the electronic board always shows the No.9. Ask Benitez why that is." Benitez later explained why he replaced Benzema in the 77th minute with Mateo Kovacic at the Vicente Calderon. "Benzema did well, but I substituted him because we needed to freshen things up on the wing," Benitez told reporters. "With Gareth Bale's speed we were able to play between different areas of the pitch and with Cristiano Ronaldo up forward we kept up our attacks. "We balanced the team and maintained our attacking punch."

Anele Ngcongca says he is settling well in France and ready to ‘show off his talent’ and catch the eye of one of Europe’s big teams. The Bafana Bafana defender joined Ligue 1 side Troyes on a season-long loan deal last month after falling out with the new coach at Genk, where he spent nine years. The 27-year-old says he has adapted well, and is even taking French lessons to make the process easier. “My teammates have been very welcoming, but they respect you more if you can learn their language rather than them having to speak English so I’m taking lessons now,” Ngcongca said. “I’ve got a guy who does translation for me most of the time when we are playing, but at Genk there were also guys speaking French so luckily I can understand a lot of what they say.” Ngcongca has played two Ligue 1 matches so far and spent another one on the bench, but unfortunately results have not been forthcoming so far with two defeats and a draw. “That’s the only problem so far – results are not coming our way,” he adds. “But the coach said it before I came here, that we always start like this but once we get our rhythm we will catch up. I hope we get the results as soon as possible because you don’t want to get your rhythm and then it’s already too late. “But what I really like is the spirit – the guys are still positive and never give up. It’s a small team who love to play football, and they’re not scared when playing against the so-called big teams. They won’t park the bus – they’re willing to start at the back, and that’s one of the reasons why I came here.” Ngcongca’s loan deal will expire at the end of the season, and he is hoping to make enough of an impression to catch the attention of a top European club. “For me the aim here is ultimately to put myself in the shop window for the big teams who have budget to pay my contract out from Genk,” says. “I just want to play and show off my talent and hopefully when the season ends I can have something on the table.”

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New Manchester United signing Anthony Martial is the best young player since Lionel Messi. That is the opinion of former Liverpool and England midfielder Jamie Redknapp, who believes the Frenchman’s intelligence and power puts him some way above his peers. “I watched Anthony Martial for 90 minutes in the Champions League and the only 19-year-old I've seen better at that age was Lionel Messi,” Redknapp said. “I played against Wayne Rooney when he made his debut, but this boy has so much intelligence. He knows when to pass, when to cross it, when to dribble and when to shoot. He goes past people like they're not there. "Everything he does, there is a reason behind it. It's like he's been here before – certain players have this, you can't put your finger on what it is, but it's just a quality. I love watching him play. He's going to be a superstar.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he wants to continue making history at Paris Saint-Germain after replacing Pauleta as the club's all-time leading scorer. Ibrahimovic struck twice from the spot in PSG's 2-1 win over Marseille last Sunday, taking his tally to 110 goals in 137 appearances in all competitions for the Ligue 1 giants. "It is a great feeling. Every time you break a record, it feels fantastic and amazing," Ibrahimovic told his side's website. "But I don't stop here. I continue and want to keep doing well for this club. "You never know what happens in the future, but what I have achieved at PSG is amazing and I feel very happy. "Hopefully, I can continue on this path and make more history, just like I have been doing so far," concluded the 34-year-old Swede.

Al-Ahly have reportedly sacked their coach Fathi Mabrouk in the wake of the club's Confederation Cup semi-final loss to Orlando Pirates. According to ahrahmonline, Ahly's youth football sector manager Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafi is expected to be named as caretaker boss of the Egyptian giants. Ahly went down 5-3 on aggregate to the Buccaneers in Suez, Egypt last Sunday. Under Mabrouk, the Reds failed to win any major championship this season - the first time since 2004. Mabrouk took charge of Ahly in May after Spaniard Juan Carlos Garrido was fired following a poor run of results. 

Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola has laughed off talk that his side have already put this season’s Bundesliga to bed. The Bavarians showed no mercy against fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund, beating them 5-1 in their League clash last weekend. Despite the convincing scoreline, coach Guardiola insists his side can do better. "I'd like to congratulate the players. We struggled early on and didn't create many chances before the opener," he said after the game. "We won 5-1 but made a lot of mistakes which we need to correct. We're happy because we beat one of the best teams in Europe.” Bayern have now won all eight of their opening Bundesliga fixtures this season and have opened up a seven-point gap over second-placed Dortmund already, yet Guardiola insists the title is not yet won. "No-one has won the German title today,” he said. “We have to keep our feet on the ground." Following their impressive start to the season, Dortmund have dropped off the pace and are winless in their last three matches heading into this week’s Fifa international break.

Sunderland coach Dick Advocaat has left his position as head coach of the struggling English club, becoming the first managerial change in the Premier League this season. The Black Cats are still winless this season after eight games, with last Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Wets Ham proving to be Advocaat’s last game in charge as he handed in his resignation. “Sunderland AFC have announced that Dick Advocaat has left his position as head coach at the club,” a club statement read. The Dutchman relinquishes his position after guiding the club to EPL safety following Gus Payet’s departure in March, and revealed his reasons for leaving so early into the campaign. “I want to thank everyone who has stood behind me. This is a very special football club, with so many great people, but I feel it is the right time to do this - not for me, but for the club,” he said. “I have made the decision to go after only eight games as I felt it was important to give everyone time turn things around - like we did last year. I am thankful to the chairman for understanding my feelings and I remain on good terms with everyone at the club.  “I wish Ellis, Lee (Congerton), all of the staff, players and of course the supporters, who made me feel so welcome here, the very best of luck for the rest of the season. I have some wonderful memories to take with me and I hope I will return to see everybody again in the future.” Sunderland chairman Ellis Short said he was left saddened by Advocaat’s decision. “I am truly saddened by Dick’s decision, but I respect him for his honesty and for doing what he feels is right for the club,” he said. "He is a man of integrity and a true football person. He was hugely respectful of the club in taking this decision and he acted 100% in our best interests. “I want to place on record my sincere thanks to Dick. He will be remembered with great affection by everyone at Sunderland and there will always be a warm welcome for him here at the Stadium of Light.” Assistant head coach Zeljko Petrovic has also left along with Advocaat, with the Black Cats second-bottom of the Premier League standings on the same points as bottom-placed Newcastle.